Human heart left on Southwest plane forces pilot to turn around

Human heart left on Southwest plane forces pilot to turn around

But passengers were ultimately loaded onto another plane and flew on to Dallas without an additional hitch - though all the hiccups amounted to a five-hour delay.

The human heart that was left on a Southwest Airlines flight after someone forgot to unload it in Seattle over the weekend was being sent to an area tissue processor to recover a valve.

A Southwest spokesperson said the decision was made that Flight #3606 would return to Washington after "we learned of a life-critical cargo shipment onboard the aircraft that was meant to stay in Seattle for delivery to a local hospital".

The mistake was discovered Sunday somewhere over Idaho, and the plane executed a sharp turn and returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Seattle Times reported.

Southwest Airlines was tasked with flying the heart from Sacramento to Washington, where an unidentified hospital was awaiting the organ. Spokeswomen for regional organ-procurement organisations in Washington and California also said they would never use commercial flights for heart transplants.

Dr. Andrew Gottschalk, who was onboard the delayed flight, described the incident as a "horrific story of gross negligence".

It is not known where the heart was headed.

It's unclear how long the flight was in the air before it made its return to Seattle or if the heart was intended for a specific patient. Or if it made it there in time for a likely transplant.

Dan Landson for Southwest Airlines added: 'Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day'.

A passenger on the flight told the Times that his fellow passengers were initially stunned by the news.

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