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After passenger dies on United flight, man who helped him has COVID symptoms and passengers warned

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Posted at 12:21 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 14:21:34-05

United Airlines is reportedly working with the CDC to alert passengers onboard a flight last week from Orlando to Los Angeles they may have been exposed to COVID-19 after a passenger had an inflight medical emergency and later died. A man who tried to help the man is now reporting symptoms.

United says a man onboard flight UA591 on December 14 had coronavirus-like symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, according to statements his wife made, before suffering a medical emergency onboard.

A nurse and EMT began CPR on the passenger as the flight was diverted to New Orleans to get the man help.

When the plane landed, they believed the man’s emergency was cardiac arrest, and they allowed passengers to “take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” the airline told NBC News.

The airline now says they were contacted by the CDC and “are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection," a representative for the airline told CBS LA.

The man who says he performed CPR on the passenger, Tony Aldapa, says he is now experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Aldapa said he used his EMT training to try and help the man.

"There were three of us that were essentially tag-teaming doing chest compressions, probably about 45 minutes,” Aldapa told CBS LA.

Aldapa has tweeted about what he did, and his decision to help a stranger during a pandemic.

“I made the decision to attempt to save the passengers life and along with 2 others performed CPR for close to an hour until we landed. And continued to help the firefighters when they came onboard,” Aldapa tweeted. “I knew the risks involved in performing CPR on someone that potentially has COVID but I made the choice to do so anyways. I spoke with the passengers wife about his medical history and she never mentioned he was positive, she said he was scheduled to have a test done in LA.”

Aldapa says he has “become symptomatic” and over the weekend was waiting for the results of a second COVID-19 test.

The passenger had filled out a questionnaire before boarding the flight, which asked about testing positive for COVID-19 and having symptoms. It is now apparent the man "wrongly acknowledged this requirement,” the airline said.