Earlier this week, Dallas County announced it learned that over the summer a woman died of COVID-19 died while on a Spirit Airlines flight back to North Texas.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Spirit Airlines Flight 208, an Airbus A320, was leaving from Las Vegas on July, 24 and headed to Dallas-Fort Worth. The flight was diverted to Albuquerque, NM, due to the passenger's medical issue.
"They ran to get oxygen and we saw people performing CPR on her," said Talitha Burris. She and her husband were on the same flight headed back to DFW.
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She recalled seeing the woman board the plane and was six rows back. Burris said the flight started off normal and she fell asleep. Less than an hour in the air, Burris woke up to the flight attendants asking on the loudspeaker if there was a doctor on board.
"Probably about maybe 20 minutes, later 30 minutes later, we heard somebody talking really loud and fall. The stewardess is going back and forth down the aisles. We're trying to figure out what was going on and once they turned the lights on, we saw the lady, laid out on her back in the aisle," said Burris.
People on the flight started to pray and Burris posted on social media asking for prayers after the woman's sister reached out to the strangers on board.
"Her sister was kind of pacing back and forth, and her sister was like, 'Hey, if you guys are praying people. I know you don't know me or anything, this is my sister and we're trying to get back home to her family. We don't know what's going on but if you guys would not mind praying with me," explained Burris.
She recalled two passengers and flight attendants working hard to revive the woman.
"Looked like she (flight attendant) may have been in her 20s, she was so tired from trying to perform CPR, she started sweating, like she was drenched with sweat. And she almost passed out herself because she just would not give up, she really was trying to save this lady. And there were times when we could hear the sister say, 'Come on, you can do it. Come on, you can do it.' She's clapping, and so when she clapped, we all started clapping because we're thinking, 'okay she's conscious, you know,' but she was unconscious," explained Burris.
The flight landed in New Mexico where paramedics came onboard the flight.
"They take her out and so we're like, 'Okay, thank God, she got some help, they are rushing her to emergency,' that's what we all thought," explained Burris. She said half an hour later the pilot told them they were waiting on the coroner.
"We realized she had died, she had passed away," she said.
The Office of the Medical Investigator at the University of New Mexico said 38-year-old Wanda Griffin died of a COVID-19 infection and listed significant contributory conditions such as asthma and morbid obesity. It said Griffin "had been experiencing shortness of breath, which was not relieved by her inhaler medication, and was provided oxygen before she collapsed."
Spirit Airlines stated the following.
"We offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of our Guest who passed away. Our Flight Attendants have in-depth training to respond to medical emergencies and utilize several resources, including communicating with our designated on-call medical professionals on the ground, using onboard medical kits and personal protective equipment, and receiving assistance from credentialed medical personnel traveling on the flight."
Burris said after the news reports and from friends, she put two-and-two together and realized it was the same woman on her flight.
"I was really emotional, and I'm just getting emotional just thinking about it, but I remember when I posted I said, 'Tell your family that you love them. You know, any type of issues, it doesn't matter because we saw this lady get on a flight, just like we did and I said to myself, 'I'm like that could have been us," said Burris.
She was also concerned for the passengers and flight attendants whom she called heroes who tried to save Griffin's life.
"They performed CPR no mask. There were no masks. They were in that lady's face and trying to save her with, you know, disregard of their own health because they were, you know, we saw human life. And so the people who actually do CPR I would wonder you know if they were affected by it or infected by it," said Burris.