Travelers on LAX-bound flight notified of possible COVID-19 exposure after Dec. 14 passenger death

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County health officials are notifying passengers aboard a United Airlines flight headed to LAX that they might have been exposed to COVID-19 after a fellow passenger collapsed during the flight and died from the virus.

United Flight 591 was en route to L.A. from Orlando on Dec. 14. It was diverted to New Orleans due to a medical emergency after a passenger suffered what was initially deemed a heart attack.

The man died at a hospital.

Last week, a report by the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office in Louisiana confirmed the 69-year-old L.A. resident died from COVID-19 and acute respiratory failure.

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United Airlines confirmed on Dec. 18 that it had been contacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the man.

"At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans," according to the airline. "Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection."

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Passengers on the flight said the man's wife told paramedics that he tested positive for COVID-19 and was showing symptoms.

United Airlines says passengers must certify that they do not have COVID-19 or any symptoms before they are allowed to board.

The flight continued to L.A. after the man was taken off the plane.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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