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Plane held for man going to see dying child

January 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A Southwest pilot made a compassionate decision when he refused to take off without a man who was desperate to see his grandson one last time.The Arizona grandfather was visiting Los Angeles when he got some heart-wrenching news: His 2-year-old grandson was going to be taken off life support and time was running out.

Mark Dikinson was desperate to get to the boy in Denver, Colo. He wouldn't have made it on time if the pilot didn't hold the plane for an extra 12 minutes.

"I was really panicking because I really didn't think I would make the flight," said Dickinson.

Dickinson arrived at Los Angeles International Airport two hours before his flight, but a long line at security set him back. He said Transportation Security Administration agents were not sympathetic to his situation.

"They were pretty much of the opinion that it didn't matter what my particular situation was. I needed to go like everybody else, so I did," said the grandfather.

Dickinson said his emotions were running high and he was feeling sad and anxious not knowing if he would make it to Denver in time to see his grandson, Caden Rogers.

Caden was rushed to the hospital on Jan. 5 and put on life support after his mother's boyfriend allegedly threw him across the room, slamming the boy's head against a bed. The boyfriend, 30-year-old Theodore Madrid, told police that he was drunk and high on marijuana.

"At the time, my biggest focus [was] I wanted to see my grandson and I wanted to take care of my daughter," said Dickinson.

After he got through security, Dickinson said he was so rushed that he grabbed his shoes and ran through the terminal in his socks. When he arrived at his gate, he asked if the flight had left.

Dickinson said the pilot was standing by the jetway waiting for him and said he was holding the flight for him.

"I told him, 'thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that.' And he said, 'No problem. They can't leave without me anyway,'" Dickinson recalled.

Dickinson's wife had called the airline asking them to hold the plane. Dickinson said after the flight, he never got the chance to thank the pilot properly for such a human gesture in his darkest hour.

"I would just tell him that I can't tell him how grateful I am that he did that for me," said Dickinson.

A Southwest spokesperson said the airline has identified the pilot who held the flight for Dickinson. But according to company policy, the airline is holding off releasing his name until he gives permission.

They said the pilot was flying on Thursday and could not be immediately reached.