Spirit passengers bring man back to life on flight to Orlando

Passengers give CPR, use AED to restart heart

ORLANDO, Fla. – Katherine Yombik was on board Spirit Airlines Flight 801 waiting for departure from Detroit Metro Airport Tuesday morning when she heard someone yell out to call 911.

A man had collapsed on the plane.

Passenger Jeff Kruger said the man, sitting in the seat in front of him, was not moving.

"He was completely unresponsive, head tilted, jaw open, not breathing properly," Kruger said. "You could just tell something was wrong."

Yombik, a nurse from Michigan, was one of the first passengers to answer the call for help.

“Someone said 'call 911' and we went back and the guy is unresponsive and (had) no pulse so we pulled him out and started CPR," Yombik said.

Kruger, who had just taken a CPR class two weeks earlier, helped lift the man to the floor.

“Someone picked him up from that side, someone picked him up from the feet, got him from his seat to the ground," Kruger said. "As I went to start compressions there's an EMT, yelling, who came forward, so my response was to get a defibrillator to the gentlemen as quickly as possible."

Yombik said she performed CPR.

"No pulse, so we did CPR for a couple minutes," Yombik said. "Got an AED, put the pads on, shocked him, got his pulse back."

Sue Kneehouse, also a nurse, used the automated external defibrillator on the man. 

"It was really good, we worked as a team and got it done," Kneehouse said. "It just comes natural to you and I just gotta say- people just need to keep loving each other."

The man was revived almost instantly. 

Members of the Capusano family from Ontario, Canada, who were on board the plane, said the other passengers remained calm and cheered as the man was taken off the plane in Detroit on a stretcher.

"The defibrillator brought him back and everyone started clapping," 11-year-old Nina Capusano said. "I think it's really important to do what you can even if you're not a medical professional to try and help someone because it's the better thing to do and really nice."

Kruger said the nurses and EMT who volunteered to help didn't hesitate for a second.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do," Kruger said. "You have a chance to continue life and this is the only life that we have. How can you not?"

Kruger, Yombik and Kneehouse all stressed the importance of learning CPR and how to operate an AED.

 "It's so easy to learn, everyone should know CPR, and everyone should have an AED or at least know where there is an AED," Yombik said. "That's really what saved his life."

Flight 801 continued on to Orlando without incident and arrived at 12:44 p.m.

Spirit officials, citing medical privacy reasons, could not say how the man is doing.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.