Update: Plane Diverted to Eppley

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The airline passengers who made an unscheduled stop in Omaha Monday night after the pilot blacked out, left town on Tuesday afternoon.

United Airlines confirmed 148 of the 154 original passengers got on the flight to Denver Tuesday. From there, the airline will make accommodations for connecting flights. The six passengers who were not on the flight made other arrangements, according to United.

Twelve-and-a-half hours after their flight was diverted from Denver to Omaha, the passengers were back at the airport.

While awaiting departure, passenger Travis Vanderkrol of Phoenix said, “They told us to be here by 10. They would start giving us information. Our goal is to get home."

Travis was traveling with his two-and-a-half-year-old son Benjamin and reflecting on the incident he told us, “It was a little nerve-wracking. I mean, the co-pilot did a great job. I mean, you couldn't tell by the plane's action that anything was going on."

What happened in the air was fresh in their minds but even more impressive for Travis with his youngster in tow was the service on the ground.

He said, "The airlines here, once we got in, they were awesome. Last night I actually had run out of diapers and one of the gentlemen here ran to the store and bought me diapers to get me through the day."

Like others, Katie Verhulst didn't check-in to her downtown hotel until 2 a.m.

After hearing a call for both a medical assistant and a pilot, Verhulst knew something was wrong mid-flight last night.

She said, “I saw the flight attendant reach for first aid kits from above one of my compartments."

On Tuesday, the challenges remaining for the passengers involved reworking travel plans.

Passengers told WOWT 6 News it's not looking promising to get to destinations like Phoenix and Los Angeles in time to ring in 2014. Many said they may be making New Year's plans in Denver.



Posted December 30, 2013


A passenger plane was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Omaha Monday night with the co-pilot at the controls after the captain went unconscious.

The plane was flying from Des Moines to Denver and landed at Eppley Airfield without incident around 9:30 p.m.

Emergency crews responding were told that there was an unconscious person on board the aircraft. The co-pilot was reportedly flying the plane but there was no initial indication why.

The flight crew called for medical help during the flight, and two nurses onboard responded. Amy Sorensen from Wyoming and Linda Alweiss from California stepped in.

"I told them I was an emergency room nurse, and they said they would take me up there and see what they had to work with," Sorensen said.

Alweiss was told the pilot was unconscious due to a cardiac problem. The two nurses had never met or worked together before, but on the plane it was as if they always had.

"There was a lot of medical supplies onboard," Alweiss said. "A lot of medications we were able to access."

The two tended to the pilot as the first officer took over the controls and flight attendants calmed passengers.

"At that point we just kind of did what we know," Sorensen said. "Back to the basics of being a nurse, and just trying to keep him stable until we were back on the ground."

It was about 25 to 30 minutes before the plane touched down in Omaha. In that time, a day of travel for two nurses turned into a day of work and quick thinking.

Flightaware.com shows the plane had actually passed Omaha and gotten closer to Grand Island before turning around to come back.

Passengers tell WOWT 6 News the crew handled the situation well. United Airlines paid for accomodations for all the passengers and plans to get them back onto their plane to get them to their destinations Tuesday morning.

The pilot is now recovering at Alegent Creighton Medical Center.


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