Coroner Confirms Man Who Died After Mid-Flight Medical Emergency Had COVID: Reports

Rachel DeSantis
·3 min read

Robert Alexander/Getty United Airlines plane

Officials in Louisiana have reportedly confirmed that the man who fell ill in the middle of a United Airlines flight and later died at a hospital was infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

A report by Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich lists the cause of death for passenger Isaias Hernandez as COVID-19 and acute respiratory failure, The Washington Post and NBC News reported.

(Cvitanovich did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)

Hernandez, 69, suffered a medical emergency mid-flight on a United plane heading from Orlando to Los Angeles on Dec. 14, PEOPLE previously confirmed.

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Though he filled out a required checklist prior to boarding claiming he did not have COVID-19 or virus-related symptoms, Hernandez's wife was overheard telling paramedics that her husband was exhibiting symptoms, including loss of taste and smell.

A spokesperson for United confirmed to PEOPLE that Flight 591 was diverted to New Orleans and the airline was informed that the passenger had suffered a cardiac arrest.

The passenger also suffered from pre-existing conditions, including high-blood pressure and upper respiratory issues, and was feeling sick leading up to the day of travel, PEOPLE previously reported.

Others on the plane were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel and all passengers chose to continue, as the emergency was ruled cardiac distress at the time.

The incident went viral after it was documented in a series of tweets by another passenger, model Jordan Pope, who said that Hernandez’s wife "confirmed a positive test when talking to EMTs."

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Tony Aldapa was among those who stepped in to perform CPR on Hernandez, as he had worked as an emergency medical technician and works in an emergency room.

“My whole mindset that whole time was that this individual needed CPR … regardless of anything else he could have had,” he told CNN.

Aldapa said he has since tested negative for the coronavirus but did develop “very mild” symptoms, such as fatigue, a cough and a headache.

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A spokesperson for United said the airline had been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.”

"The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place such as mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a ‘Ready-to-Fly’ checklist before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Hernandez’s wife did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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