How Ugandan woman died on British Airways flight

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Last Sunday, Stanley Mukasa set out to pick up his wife Sheila Kirungi Mukasa (41) who was aboard a British Airways flight from Entebbe to London Heathrow.

He had spoken to her on phone shortly before the flight took off and she said to him: “I am switching off my phone, see you soon. I love you”.

But those would be Sheila’s last words and final farewell to her husband, as she embarked on what would turn out to be her final journey.

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In London, the BA flight that was expected at 07.45 UK time arrived a little bit earlier. Stanley Mukasa, accompanied by one of his sons, was among the many relatives and friends anxiously waiting to welcome their loved ones.

It was not long before they realised that almost all the passengers had disembarked. But there was no Sheila.

They became more anxious when they overheard some passengers saying that there was a sick person on board, who might be dead.

“I developed some stomach upset and needed to use the toilet but asked my son to go and check with the information desk,” Mukasa said. “It was upon reaching the information desk that my son was told: ‘wait for the police, it is coming’.”

Sheila would later be confirmed dead and taken for postmortem which was yet to be released at the time of this interview. Mukasa, a resident of Romford, London, insists his wife and mother of his two children aged 26 and 25 respectively neither had any heart problems, diabetes or any other complications.

“That’s why I am eager to find out the cause of her death from a postmortem report coming out soon,” he said. “A lot is being said but I need to see the report first,” he added.

Sheila had spent 12 days in Uganda where she had gone to see her mother who had earlier been admitted at Mulago Heart Institute. When the mother was discharged, Sheila took her back to her home at Virika, Fort portal, before returning to Entebbe to catch a flight back to London the next day.

Sheila is survived by a husband Stanley with whom they wedded in September 1995 at Namirembe cathedral, and two sons, one university and the other working with Norfolk Water.

Eyewitness

Barbara Mayanja, a passenger on the same flight with Sheila, gave the following account to this reporter.

“When we were about one and a half hours left before arrival to London, I saw a woman go past to the toilet which was about two to three rows from where I was seated. No sooner had she gone past, than I heard a very loud bang and on turning around, I realised that the lady who had just passed me had collapsed and was now on the floor.

She literally fell on my feet. She held my legs while I used the cabin magazine as a fan to keep her cool. The lady sitting beside me was a doctor and she too helped take her blood pressure and sugar readings.  She was unconscious and it took her about two minutes to come round.

Two other Ugandan ladies and two members of the cabin crew helped lift her feet. She kept putting her hand on her chest and she seemed to be breathing with difficulty.

When she came round, she was smiling but couldn’t talk. The doctor asked her, “Can you hear me? What is your name? Do you suffer from blood pressure? Where were you seated? What is your name? Were you travelling alone?” However, she didn’t answer any of these questions.

But when she was asked if she had fainted before, she nodded her disagreement. The cabin crew brought some oxygen to aid her with breathing. I went up and down the aisle looking for her seat and handbag for details but in vain because I couldn’t locate where exactly she was seated.

Later, the cabin crew found her hand luggage and got her details. I was later to learn from the people she had sat next to that she ate her breakfast well on the plane and even asked for two extra yoghurts which she ate before standing to go to the toilet.

The pilot announced that he considering making an emergency landing probably in Paris. At this point, she had also been put in a recovery position in the aisle where she had fallen, and she seemed to be responding. Then the pilot decided that we proceed with the journey to London.

All this time she seemed to be fighting for her life, with some sound. But then, all of a sudden, she went silent. Then they brought in the defibrillator machine and also tried to resuscitate her several times until we landed. They were also trying to get her pulse but in vain.

When we landed shortly before the scheduled time, we were all asked to wait for another five minutes before many paramedics and doctors came on board and took over the patient. The paramedics were rushing in and out and asking us to stay where we were.

They asked us to give them some space and even evacuated some passengers without their hand luggage to create space and privacy. After a short while, they called in police. They later asked us to look away as they took her out. The ordeal lasted about 45-50 minutes.

I left them my details and they were to call me later to say that the lady had passed on. I feel so sad I don’t know what to say….life is too short! She was touching her chest. She fought so hard for her life. I feel traumatised, and angry and scared!!”-observer.ug

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