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Probe into air death - Many question why Carine Desir died

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Residents of Flatbush are reeling from the death of 44-year-old Carine Desir, a beloved Maple Street nurse who died last weekend on a return flight from Haiti to New York – a flight that grieving relatives charge was run by uncaring flight attendants who wouldn’t give the dying woman oxygen, even when she begged them for it. The headline-grabbing death has led many to demand answers to what happened on the American Airlines Airbus A300 several thousands of feet in the air in the skies above the Caribbean. Those leading this charge include Flatbush Rep. Yvette Clarke, who demanded that American Airlines conduct a thorough investigation to give the Desir family “a sense of closure.” “The initial hesitancy and poor response by airline personnel is simply unacceptable,” she said. “Even more incomprehensible are the questions surrounding the inoperability on the medical equipment on board.” But American Airlines officials disputed the allegations. They say their staff acted properly and their equipment was functioning perfectly – statements that fly in the face of claims made by Desir’s cousin, Antonio Oliver. Oliver said that he was a passenger on the same plane when Desir began having trouble breathing. When Desir asked for some oxygen, she was turned down twice, Oliver alleged. “Please don’t let me die. I can’t breathe,” Desir cried as she begged for assistance, he claimed. When the airline attendants finally gave her an oxygen tank, it was empty, Oliver charged. Although several medical professionals on the plane administered as much aid as they could, Desir died as the plane was being diverted to Miami. Her body was removed to the floor of the plane’s first-class area and covered in a blanket, airline customers told reporters. Officials from the city’s medical examiner’s office said that Desir died of complications from heart disease and diabetes. American Airlines officials said that they didn’t deny Desir anything. Attendants, who are trained to evaluate the situation instead of answering immediate requests for oxygen, administered two oxygen tanks to Desir, but they didn’t help, said Airline officials, who also disputed Oliver’s claims that their portable defibrillator was inoperable when a doctor tried to jumpstart the woman’s heart. “We stand behind the actions and training of our crew and the functionality of the onboard medical equipment,” the airline said in a statement. The investigation into Desir’s death was continuing as this paper went to press.

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