BOISE, ID. (CNN) – The 161 passengers aboard United Flight 1603 must have known something was wrong when a crew member announced on the cabin loudspeaker if anyone aboard was a physician.
The pilot, Capt. Henry Skillern, 63, was suffering a heart attack.
The in-flight emergency Thursday night that began somewhere in the skies between Houston and Seattle prompted the 737 to divert to Boise, Idaho.
Air traffic controllers radioed the plane’s first officer who updated them with the captain’s condition.
“We got a man down, chest compressions going on right now,” the first officer said. “I’m not sure too much right now on status.”
Once the aircraft was on the ground, first responders boarded and rushed Skillern to Boise’s Saint Alphonsus hospital, where he later died.
It wasn’t immediately known whether Capt. Skillern was piloting the plane at the time he became incapacitated. Typically, there are two pilots in the cockpit so that during an emergency, either pilot can quickly take control of the aircraft.
Flight 1603’s passengers waited at the Boise airport until United flew in another pilot from San Francisco, before they were able to continue their journey to Seattle.