A FIREFIGHTER leapt into action when a man suffered a suspected heart attack at 30,000ft on a flight back from holiday.
Gareth Snowden, 29, from Higherford, was returning from a week-long stay in Lanzarote when a passenger complained of chest pains and collapsed. Cabin crew issued a plea over over the flight PA for anyone with medical knowledge to come forward.
Gareth, who works at Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick and has been a retained firefighter at Nelson station for 10 years, gave the man oxygen but feared there wouldn’t be enough to make it back to the UK.
He called on the crew to tell the pilot to land the plane as the man, in his 40s, needed urgent medical attention.
The easyJet flight, which was bound for Liverpool, made an emergency landing at Casablanca, Morocco, where the man was rushed to hospital for treatment. He has since been discharged.
Airline bosses are now planning to write a letter thanking Mr Snowden for his prompt actions.
Gareth said: “I’ve done some trauma training and I’ve dealt with car accidents in the past, so my knowledge was a bit more advanced than the basic training the cabin crew had.
“I was feeling the pressure at first. There were lots of passengers looking on including the man’s wife, so you don’t want to seem like you’re just getting in the way.
“In that situation I could have been an open-heart surgeon and it wouldn’t have made a difference because you have no equipment.
“There were six oxygen canisters on board and in the short space of time we treated him he had gone through three and was deteriorating every time we removed the oxygen.
“There was another trained first-aider, a man who trained lifeboat users, and we made a decision between the both of us.
“He wasn’t going to make it too far so we told the crew the plane needed to come down and this man had to go to hospital for treatment.
“I applied an ice pack to his neck. He was complaining of a tight chest and pain down his arm and side, which I knew were symptoms of a heart attack.”
Gareth was returning from a holiday on the Spanish island last Thursday with his partner Charlotte Bradshaw, 30, of Barrowford.
The plane had only been in the air for 50 minutes when the man was taken ill.
Gareth was given a round of applause by the rest of the passengers for his intervention.
He said: “It was quite a proud moment, if a bit embarrassing.
“You don’t get that when you attend fires or car crashes.”
An easyJet spokesman said: “easyJet’s number one priority is the safety and health of all its passengers and crew and its cabin crew are fully trained to provide the first medical assistance on board.
“As a result, the flight was night stopped. All the 176 passengers were provided with care assistance by easyJet with coaches to Rabat and hotel accommodation.
“Passengers were re-booked and reached their final destination at Liverpool on November 23.”
Miss Bradshaw, who works for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said communication was poor and passengers were left without access to food or water for six hours.
She added: “There were a lot of unhappy people on that flight but it’s irrelevant – the main thing is that this man is all right.”