Brooklyn woman dies on flight

(AP) - Struggling to breathe, American Airlines passenger Carine Desir asked for oxygen, but a flight attendanttwice refused her request, the woman's cousin said.

"Don't let me die," the cousin, Antonio Oliver, recalled Desirsaying after the attendant allegedly refused at first to administerthe oxygen Friday.

But Desir did die, Oliver said Sunday in a telephone interview.

He said the flight attendant finally relented but variousmedical devices on the plane failed, including two oxygen tanksthat were found to be empty and what may have been a defibrillatorthat seemed to malfunction.

American Airlines confirmed the flight death and said medicalprofessionals had tried to save the woman. A spokeswoman for theairline, Sonja Whitemon, wouldn't comment Sunday on Oliver's claimsof faulty medical equipment on the plane.

Desir, who had heart disease, died of natural causes, medicalexaminer's office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said Sunday.

Desir had complained of not feeling well and being very thirstyon the Friday flight home from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after she atea meal, according to Oliver, who was traveling with her and herbrother, Joel Desir. A flight attendant gave her water, he said.

A few minutes later, Desir said she was having "troublebreathing" and asked for oxygen, but a flight attendant twicerefused her request, Oliver said.

He said other passengers aboard Flight 896 became agitated overthe situation, and the flight attendant, apparently after phoneconsultation with the cockpit, tried to administer oxygen from aportable tank and mask, but the tank was empty.

Oliver said two doctors and two nurses were aboard and tried toadminister oxygen from a second tank, which also was empty.

Desir, of New York City, was placed on the floor, and a nursetried CPR, Oliver said. A "box," possibly a defibrillator, alsowas applied but didn't function effectively, he said.

Oliver said he then asked for the plane to "land right away soI can get her to a hospital," and the pilot agreed to divert toMiami, 45 minutes away. But during that time Desir collapsed anddied, Oliver said.

"Her last words were, 'I cannot breathe,"' he said.

Desir, 44, was pronounced dead by one of the doctors, JoelShulkin, and the flight continued to John F. Kennedy InternationalAirport, without stopping in Miami. The woman's body was moved tothe floor of the first-class section and covered with a blanket,Oliver said.

Shulkin, through his attorney, Justin Nadeau, declined tocomment on the incident.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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