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Seattle flight U-turns when human heart found onboard

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 13, 2018

This aerial photo from video provided by KABC-TV shows a Southwest Airlines jet after it stopped in a graded area designed to slow aircraft that overshoot the runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Associated Press)
This aerial photo from video provided by KABC-TV shows a Southwest Airlines jet after it stopped in a graded area designed to slow aircraft that overshoot the runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Associated Press)
KCPQ-TV, Seattle

SEATTLE – A Southwest Airlines flight from Seattle to Dallas turned around Sunday when the crew learned a human heart intended for a hospital was left on the plane.

Flight 3606 was en route to Dallas when the heart was spotted onboard, a Southwest Airlines official said. The crew quickly turned around in order to get the heart the hospital.

“We made the decision to return to Seattle as it was absolutely necessary to deliver the shipment to its destination,” a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said.

Once on ground, the flight was taken out of service due to an unrelated mechanical issue. Another plane was brought in, and passengers took off again.

All-in-all, it was a five-hour delay, the spokesperson said.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience to the customers impacted by the delay,” the spokesperson said. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day.”

Southwest planned to offer a “gesture of goodwill” to all those onboard.

Deanna Santa, of Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento, California, said the organ-procurement organization sent the heart through a courier, who picked it up in Sacramento for shipment to Seattle, according to the Seattle Times. The valve will be used for a transplant, though there is no designated patient yet.

“The most important part is that no one was waiting,” she told the Times.

Once it was back in Seattle the heart was taken for tissue processing. It wasn’t affected by the delay, she added.

“Despite the detour, all is well,” she said.

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