The family of a black South Carolina woman who died in April 2016 on a Dallas-bound American Airlines flight has filed a wrongful death suit against the airline. The parents of Brittany Oswell, who was only 25 at the time of her death, allege that the airline refused to divert the plane for an emergency landing—despite a doctor’s repeated recommendation that it do so—and failed to provide proper working medical equipment and supplies on the plane.
According to the New York Daily News, Oswell and her husband, Cory Oswell, were flying home from Hawaii when, a few hours into the flight, Brittany Oswell became dizzy and fainted. A doctor on board examined her once she regained consciousness, and believed the nurse was having a panic attack, according to the lawsuit.
But an hour to three hours later, as the plane flew over New Mexico, Brittany Oswell became violently ill.
As the Dallas Morning News reports, it was at this point that a doctor examined Oswell again and told the flight crew to divert the plane to the nearest airport. The suit says that the doctor, who was a passenger on the flight, told flight attendants three times to land at the nearest airport and spoke to both the captain and American Airlines’ on-call physician.
With about 90 minutes left to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the captain decided to continue the rest of the scheduled flight rather than make an emergency landing, “despite the firsthand observations of the seriousness of Brittany’s conditions,” the suit alleges.
Oswell had been found on the floor of the plane’s restroom covered in her own vomit.
About an hour before landing, Oswell stopped breathing. She never regained consciousness and died at Baylor Medical Center three days later. Doctors say she suffered a blood clot in her lung.
“The concept that you would fall into distress of this nature and a doctor would ask for immediate help and it would not be granted, those are the types of questions we want answered,” the family’s attorney, Brad Cranshaw, told KXAS-TV.
The suit also alleges that medical equipment on board, including a defibrillator and a blood pressure monitor, was broken and unusable.
In a statement to KXAS-TV, American Airlines said that the company was “deeply saddened” by Oswell’s death and that it sent its thoughts and prayers to her loved ones.
“We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of the complaint,” the airline said.
In October of last year, after a series of high-profile incidents involving the treatment of black passengers, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for black travelers flying on the airline. The move pushed the company to announce that it would enforce mandatory implicit-bias training for its employees this year.
But Tina Starks, Oswell’s mother, told ABC News that what American Airlines should have done in April 2016 was very clear.
“We absolutely felt like this was not taken very seriously,” Starks said. “She’s no longer here to do anything with us, and it’s all because someone made a business decision to keep flying a plane when she needed emergency medical help that they could not provide because of inadequacies on board the flight.”