Pilot Collapses and Dies Mid-Flight


LATAM Airline Captain Iván Andaur wasn’t feeling well when he excused himself to use the lavatory. Once locked inside, he suffered an apparent cardiac arrest and collapsed. Various outlets are reporting that he died there but others note he was provided what treatment was available before being pronounced deceased by medical teams on the ground. The tragedy underscores preparedness for in-flight emergencies and raises some serious questions that airline authorities will need to provide answers to later.

Captain inconveniently collapsed

In-flight medical emergencies are common enough that every commercial flight has a captain and co-pilot. If Iván Andaur had collapsed at the controls, everyone would have known exactly what to do and sprung into action. Instead, on August 13, the 56-year-old excused himself to use the bathroom, locked himself in, then collapsed.

When he didn’t return in a reasonable amount of time, the flight crew sent a cabin attendant to check on him. You probably didn’t know it but they have a concealed button to pop the lock open.

When the captain has a heart attack and you’re half way from Miami to Chile there aren’t a whole lot of emergency medical options. They asked for passengers with medical training and got a registered nurse, two doctors and an assistant nurse. The experienced nurse, Isadora, took charge.

She did the best she could with what she had, which wasn’t much. Isadora explained the Boeing 787 Dreamliner simply “didn’t have the ‘necessary supplies‘ aboard.” She doesn’t list what they are but others will certainly be looking into that now.

The plane and other passengers were all safe and secure thanks to a pair of co-pilots who promptly made an emergency landing in Panama City. After the captain was incapacitated, flight LA505 from Miami International Airport announced that they weren’t going directly to Santiago, as expected.

Instead, they touched down at Tocumen International Airport. As soon as they got the plane stopped and the door open, “paramedics provided first aid to Andaur, but he was pronounced dead.

Crew did their ‘utmost’

The crew, Isadora declares, “did their utmost to try and help.” The “improvised medical team did not have ‘necessary or sufficient supplies‘ to resuscitate him.” She also added the comment that “LATAM needs to improve the issue of protocol in case of health and medical emergencies like this where lives can be saved but the resources are needed.

The captain began his career with the Chilean Air Force prior to becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Reporters are quick to note that it’s not known “what supplies Isadora was referring to.” They contacted officials for comment but never heard back. The public doesn’t so much need to know what equipment was missing as why. If there where things which typically would have been available to save the captain but weren’t, then heads will roll.

Once they got everyone in the terminal, the airline announced an unscheduled overnight stopover and got everyone into a hotel room for the night. They didn’t get back in the air until Tuesday afternoon.

One of the passengers relates that everything was normal as the flight departed Miami around 11 p.m. and climbed up to cruising altitude. “After 40 minutes the pilot asked us if there was a doctor on the plane, we don’t know what happened there.” Soon a flight attendant started asking around if any passengers “had items used for people who are insulin-dependent.

That’s when they “told us that we were going to land because the pilot felt sick and when we arrived they asked us to evacuate the plane because the situation had worsened.” The captain leaves behind a daughter, Sofia Andaur.

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