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Man dies after collapsing with possible COVID-19 symptoms on US flight

United Airlines plane from Orlando makes emergency landing in New Orleans as passengers perform CPR; wife reportedly tells medics husband had shown signs of coronavirus

United Airlines has given information about other passengers to federal health officials after a man who possibly had coronavirus-like symptoms died shortly after being on a flight, the airline said Friday.

The coast-to-coast flight took off Monday from Orlando, Florida, and was diverted to New Orleans because the man experienced a medical emergency on board.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked United for the passenger manifest so other passengers can be told that they might have been exposed to a disease, spokesman Charles Hobart said.

The passenger had filled out a form before the flight saying he had not tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the airline.

“It is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement,” United said.

Other passengers said the man was seen shaking and sweating and had a hard time breathing before the flight took off, the Daily Mail reported Sunday.

After takeoff, his condition grew worse and after an hour he stopped breathing, the report said, prompting the captain to bring the plane back down to the ground as soon as possible.

When the crew asked if there were any doctors on board, Tony Aldapa was among a number of people who came forward and helped perform CPR.

He told the paper “there was no mouth-to-mouth at all. We were doing chest compressions and they had him on the oxygen mask from the plane.”

Video of the dramatic moments when passengers tried to save the man with CPR were shared on social media.

On Saturday night Aldapa tweeted about his experience, explaining he felt the need to attempt to save the man’s life despite the risk.

“I spent the remainder of the flight covered in my own sweat and in that man’s urine,” he wrote. “I have since become symptomatic [of COVID-19] myself and am awaiting the results of my second test.”

United said the CDC did not specify the man’s cause of death, and United does not know whether it was COVID-19. But, the airline said, the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical technician that he had shown symptoms of the disease, including loss of taste and smell.

The CDC is collecting information to decide whether further public health action is appropriate, an agency spokesman said in a text message. “To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public.”

All four flight attendants were sent into quarantine for two weeks once they arrived at Los Angeles, “per written guidelines,” said Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants.

“Our union continues to provide support to the crew,” Garland said. “We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you’re sick.”

A woman who tweeted Monday night that she had overheard the man’s wife saying he had COVID-19 did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The plane was bound from Orlando, Florida, to Los Angeles, but made an emergency landing in New Orleans. The man was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the airline.

Hobart said United originally was told that he died from heart trouble, so passengers were allowed to stay on the plane and complete the flight to Los Angeles or take a later flight. The airline said all passengers stayed on the plane.

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