Flights have been delayed for multiple reasons in the past, but finding an organ on board is certainly a new one. Southwest Airlines flight 3606 was forced to turn around mid-trip after a human heart was discovered on the plane, People is reporting. The flight, which was heading to Dallas, had to return to an airport in Seattle immediately. The pilot reportedly told passengers that the heart had been left during a flight from Sacramento and was originally intended for a hospital in Seattle.
A representative for Southwest Airlines has confirmed the bizarre event to the press, stating that they “learned of a life-critical cargo shipment onboard the aircraft that was intended to stay in Seattle for delivery to a local hospital.”
“We made the decision to return to Seattle as it was absolutely necessary to deliver the shipment to its destination in the Seattle area as quickly as possible,” the statement read.
The heart apparently traveled from California, to Washington, to the other side of Idaho, and back to Washington. According to Dr. Andrew Gottschalk, who happened to be a passenger on flight 3606, the situation was a “horrific story of gross negligence.” A follow-up statement from Southwest Airlines stated that the plane was “taken out of service due to an unrelated mechanical issue.” More questions arose when it was discovered that no hospitals in Seattle were involved. In addition, a spokesperson for organ-procurement organizations in Washington and California shared that due to most transplants of vital organs being time-sensitive, commercial airlines are not normally used for transportation.
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) December 13, 2018
The mystery was solved on Thursday, December 13, when Deanna Santa of Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento, California, came forward. There was actually no specific recipient of the heart and it was being sent to a tissue processor to obtain a valve to be used for a transplant in the future.
“We brought in a different aircraft to continue the flight to Dallas, with an estimated delay of approximately five hours,” said Southwest Airlines. “We sincerely regret the inconvenience to the Customers impacted by the delay, and we are following up with them with a gesture of goodwill to apologize for the disruption to their travel. Nothing is more important to us than the Safety of our Customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day.”
According to the Huffington Post, passengers were understandably shocked by the situation initially, but many were eventually just “happy to save a life.” While many people have forgotten luggage on flights before, it’s still unclear how a passenger was able to lose track of something as important as a human heart.