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Passenger dies on United Airlines flight to Houston, sparks homicide inquiry

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A passenger died on a United Airlines flight to Houston. Homicide detectives are investigating the cause of the passenger’s death while on United Airlines flight 95 from Denver to Houston on Tuesday night. According to an ABC13 Eyewitness news report on Aug. 6, the homicide detectives are from Houston.

United Airlines flight 95 left Denver on Tuesday evening without any unusual reports. Around 9 p.m., one of the male passengers suddenly collapsed in the aisle of the airplane. The victim immediately received CPR, but he was pronounced dead when the airplane arrived at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at 11 p.m. The plane was met by the Houston Fire Department and a medical team in Houston.

Until the Harris County Medical Examiner has completed an autopsy to determine the exact cause of the passenger’s death, Houston homicide detectives are investigating whether there was any foul play involved. The identity of the man has not been released. In September of 2013, 67-year-old passenger Benedict Sylvester Igwedike, of Lagos, Nigeria, died on board United flight 143 from Nigeria to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport -- on a Tuesday morning. "Houston police said Mr. Igwedike passed away shortly after the flight departed Nigeria," reported Click2Houston in 2013.

The lack of information provided by Houston officials in regard to the most recent death has, of course, sparked a series of assumptions as to why a passenger would die on a United Airlines flight to Houston. Among the prevalent theories are airline food, Ebola, and claustrophobia. As one commentator wrote, “most likely died of claustrophobia, United has added so many seats you can barely breathe; I spent 13 hours wishing the plane would crash so I could get some space.”

While many people are aware that long flights can contribute to a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs that often times broke off and travelled from one of the lower extremities like the legs), this latest incident of a passenger dying on a shorter United Airlines flight from Denver to Houston is raising awareness to the importance of being able to move around in airplanes.

According to a Medicine Up To The Minute report, the risk of a pulmonary embolism increases with the length of flight time but is not rare on shorter flights. Contributing factors to developing a pulmonary embolism during shorter flights include the age, height, weight of the person, and any (possibly unknown) medical conditions. “Pulmonary Embolism occurred primarily in people who simply sat and did not walk about at all. It was found more often in those flying economy class.” The report notes that “when traveling it is best to get up and walk about every hour or two, if possible.”

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