Emily France and her four-month-old son, Owen, were stuck in a sweltering United Airlines plane last month when he went limp in her arms. The horrifying ordeal has placed the airline in an ever-growing storm of criticism, and France is opening up about the harrowing ordeal.
The incident occurred in late June after France boarded an El Paso-bound United flight at Denver International Airport. Temperatures began to rise on the plane after the flight was delayed, and France frantically searched for a way to cool her son.
“When I boarded I noticed how hot it was immediately and I started putting wet wipes on Owen to try to keep him cool,” France told Inside Edition. “They kept assuring us we were gonna take off [and] it would cool off as soon as we took off.”
France waited more than an hour, and though she was allowed to step off the plane for 20 minutes to escape the heat, the temperature hadn’t changed when she re-entered.
“The plane was an oven with wings,” she recalled. The attendants assured France that the cabin would cool once the plane was in the air, but the heat was already too much for young Owen. He lost consciousness while in his mother’s arms.
“A mother knows, I heard a cry from him I have never heard before and I saw a skin color I’d never seen,” she said. “And then he just stopped crying and went limp in my arms.”
Flight attendants brought bags filled with ice to place against Owen’s small body, and passengers advised France to remove Owen’s clothing. “That is the worst moment of my life and it was just complete chaos around me. It was clear that they didn’t know what to do.”
“I thought I was going to lose my son in my arms,” France told Good Morning America.
An ambulance arrived and took Owen to the emergency room, where he recovered and is now back home. In all, France says she was on the United plane for two hours. That week, Colorado had experienced a record-breaking heatwave, and on the day France was on the plane, temperatures were close to 90 degrees, according to CNBC.
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United Airlines apologized for the incident in a statement obtained by PEOPLE: “This should never have happened. We are profoundly sorry and apologize to our customer and her child for the experience they endured,” it reads. “We are continuing to look into what happened to prevent this from occurring again.”
United has made headlines recently for multiple incidents on their planes, including when 69-year-old David Dao was dragged from a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in April, and when a middle school teacher from Hawaii was forced to hold her toddler for an entire flight after United gave her son’s seat to a standby passenger.
According to ABC News, France has not decided if she is going to file a lawsuit against United.
- With reporting by ROSE MINUTAGLIO