A Colorado mom was left in a state of panic after her baby reportedly overheated on a United Airlines flight and had to be evacuated in an ambulance.
Emily France and her 4-month-old son, Owen, were passengers on United Airlines Flight 4644 from Denver to El Paso, Texas, scheduled to depart at 1:50 p.m. June 22.
After boarding the flight, the passengers waited on the tarmac at Denver International Airport for almost two hours, according to a press release issued to HuffPost on behalf of France and her family.
Colorado experienced a heat wave last week with temperatures reaching triple digits in some places. France, who was sitting near the rear of the plane, said it was very hot when she boarded and only got worse as they waited.
“There was just hot air coming from the vents,” she told The Denver Post, adding that her son started to get overheated. France tried to cool her baby by putting wet wipes on his neck and down his shirt, and flight attendants brought bags of ice to place on his body. The mom also nursed her son to keep him hydrated.
Eventually, the crew let the passengers deplane, but they had to return after 20 minutes for takeoff. However, the flight was delayed again once they returned to their seats.
With Owen continuing to heat up, the crew allowed France to hold him by the open front door of the plane and gave her more bags of ice. Another mother and baby were also moved forward to the cooler part of the plane. Other passengers complained about the heat.
“As temperatures continued to rise, one of the pilots came into the cabin. Someone heard him say ‘it’s hot in the cockpit too,’” the family’s press release stated. Baby Owen’s condition worsened.
“His whole body flashed red and his eyes rolled back in his head and he was screaming,” France told The Denver Post. “And then he went limp in my arms. It was the worst moment of my life.”
After the mom reportedly begged for an ambulance, the crew put in the request. She estimates it took another 30 minutes before she and Owen were evacuated around 3:45 p.m, though United Airlines told ABC News it was 16 minutes.
Owen was treated in the emergency department of Children’s Hospital. “The baby is now recuperating at home with his mom and dad, who are grateful he is alive and hoping for the best,” the press release from the family notes.
France is still shaken by the frightening experience. “It is difficult for me to talk about. I stood in front of the plane door holding my limp son as the ground crew told us they could not get us off the flight,” she stated. “The evacuation was chaos. I thought my child was going to die in my arms.”
Following the incident, a representative for United told The Denver Post that the airline is in contact with the family. United also issued a statement to NBC News:
“This should never have happened. We are profoundly sorry to our customer and her child for the experience they endured. We are actively looking into what happened to prevent this from occurring again.”
This incident is the latest in a slew of PR nightmares for United. In April, a video of a doctor being violently dragged off an overbooked flight caused a national uproar. That same month, a passenger was stung by a scorpion, a giant rabbit died after traveling in the cargo section, and a woman was reportedly forced to pee in a cup on United flights.
In May, a United flight attendant accused a gay passenger of molesting his son, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration proposed fining United $435,000 for operating 23 flights in 2014 with a plane that wasn’t “airworthy.”
In June, a woman who uses a wheelchair filed a lawsuit against the airline after sustaining “serious and permanent injuries” from being dropped by a United worker, passengers spotted fuel pouring out of an airplane wing, and a video became public that appears to show a United worker shoving an elderly passenger to the ground.
Ultimately, France decided to speak out about what happened to her baby to prevent this sort of terrifying incident from occurring again in the future. She’s teamed up with Rapoport Law Offices, P.C. in Chicago to bring the issues with United’s handling of the situation to light. The firm is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the procedures in place.
“What happened to us is not right,” France stated in the press release. “It is not right for United to expose infant passengers to temperatures that are dangerous for them. And it is not right that they can’t evacuate them quickly. I am sharing our story hoping that this never happens to anyone ever again.”