Mystery after girl, 8, dies suddenly on flight to Chicago in front of horrified passengers

Sydney Weston, 8, died on board a SkyWest  Arilines flight – chartered by United Airlines – on Thursday  (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Sydney Weston, 8, died on board a SkyWest Arilines flight – chartered by United Airlines – on Thursday (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

An eight-year-old girl died on a SkyWest Airlines flight to Chicago after she suddenly became ill and unresponsive – despite medics’ “aggressive resuscitative efforts” upon landing.

Sydney Weston, from Carl Junction, Missouri, was flying with her family from Joplin when she suffered a medical emergency, which saw her flight rerouted to land in Peoria, Illinois, according to officials.

Flight personnel began “rapidly rendering aid”, the Peoria County Coroner’s Office said in a recent statement.

The diverted plane made an emergency landing at General Wayne A Downing Peoria International Airport at 7.02am on Thursday morning – just 71 minutes after take-off.

As soon as the plane touched down, medical staff began performing “life-saving measures,” according to a statement from the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office.

“Upon landing in Peoria, she was not breathing and had no pulse,” the coroner’s office said.

United 5121 diverted flightpath on Thursday (FlightAware)
United 5121 diverted flightpath on Thursday (FlightAware)

The girl was transferred from the airport to OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center seven miles away.

“Despite aggressive resuscitative efforts, she was pronounced deceased at 8:05 am this morning,” the coroner’s office said in its statement.

United flight 5121 was chartered by United Airlines, who contracted SkyWest, according to data from FlightAware.

“We appreciate the efforts of our crewmembers who responded quickly to assist and the medical personnel who met the aircraft,” a SkyWest spokesperson told the New York Post.

Weston’s autopsy has been scheduled for Friday and preliminary findings will be released upon completion, according to the coroner’s office.

The local community has been orgnaizing meals for the Weston family to “take some of the weight of their shoulders,” the page admin wrote.

“Please keep the child’s family and everyone who was involved in this traumatic experience in your thoughts and prayers,” the sheriff’s office said.

The little girl’s death comes just days after another American died mid-flight.

On Saturday evening, Raiznal Farzad Khalik, 41, “encountered a medical condition” just 90 minutes away from the San Francisco International Airport airstrips onboard a Fiji Airways flight from Nadi, Fiji.

Khalik was identified and pronounced dead by the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office.

“Despite the best efforts of our cabin crew and a doctor on board who provided immediate assistance, the passenger unfortunately passed away,” Fiji Airways said in a statement.

“We commend our cabin crew and the assisting doctor for their swift and professional response to this emergency,” the airline added.

A 2021 study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that the global in-flight mortality rate was 0.21 per million passengers.