Human Heart Found Aboard Southwest Airlines Flight, Forcing Plane to Turn Around

A representative for Southwest Airlines confirmed to PEOPLE the flight was turned around after "we learned of a life-critical cargo shipment onboard"

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It’s easy to forget a pair of sunglasses or even a wallet while flying, but a human heart? It happened on Southwest on Sunday.

While traveling across eastern Idaho, passengers aboard Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight 3606 learned that their plane would be heading back to Seattle, after their captain announced that a human heart had been left onboard, according to the Seattle Times.

The captain told the passengers that the heart, which had been left on the plane following a previous flight from Sacramento, was supposed to have been delivered to a local hospital in Seattle, the outlet reported.

A representative for Southwest confirmed to PEOPLE that the flight was turned around after “we 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 continued.

However, according to the Associated Press, no Seattle-area hospitals said they were involved in the transportation of the vital organ.

A spokesperson for organ-procurement organizations in Washington and California also told the Seattle Times that they never use commercial flights to transport organs, because of the time sensitive nature of organ transplants.

One of the passengers onboard the flight, who is also a doctor, described the incident to the Seattle Times as a “horrific story of gross negligence.”

“The heart in question traveled from California, to Washington, to the other side of Idaho, and back to Washington,” he said.

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After returning to Seattle, a spokesperson for Southwest told PEOPLE that the fight was “taken out of service due to an unrelated mechanical issue.”

On Thursday, the Seattle Times shared an update about the heart’s intended destination. Deanna Santa of Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento, California, confirmed to the outlet that the heart was being sent to the tissue processor to recover a valve, which would be used in a future transplant, but did not yet have a designated recipient.

“We brought in a different aircraft to continue the flight to Dallas, with an estimated delay of approximately five hours,” the statement continued. “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.”

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