Hero university lecturer and nurse gets plane to divert while helping ill passenger on Alicante to Newcastle flight

David Armstrong wearing his military uniform
David Armstrong wearing his military uniform -Credit:Chronicle Live

A university lecturer was given a round of applause after treating a fellow passenger who fell ill on his flight.

David Armstrong, 68, was travelling on an easyJet plane from Alicante, Spain, to Newcastle Airport with his wife Debra, 58, when a man began suffering from symptoms associated with a heart attack.

David, who is an Associate Lecturer in Nursing at Northumbria University, leapt into action and provided the man with oxygen. He then told the flight crew they needed to divert the plane so he could receive immediate medical attention.

The plane was diverted to Nantes in France on April 30 and paramedics met the man at the end of the runway. When David returned to his seat, he was given a round of applause by those on board.

David, who lives in Annitsford, North Tyneside, is a qualified nurse with a background in critical care. He was also a commanding officer for the 335 Medical Evacuation Regiment, within the British Army.

He said: "My wife and I were returning home from a spell at our place in Spain. We have a villa there in the Benissa area on the Costa Blanca. We had been there a couple of weeks.

"I was watching a movie on my iPad and my wife noticed that a gentleman two or three rows in front of us looked ill. I put the iPad down and the cabin crew asked if there was doctor or anyone with medical qualifications on board who was able to give them some help.

"The gentleman called Steven - I don't know his surname - had a history of having a couple of heart attacks. He was complaining of pain down to his left arm and up to his jaw, which are classic symptoms of a heart attack.

"This chap was adamant he was getting back to Newcastle. He had his daughter there and his wife, I had to reassure them. I said 'I'll keep an eye on him for a short time'. I got some oxygen from the cabin crew and I gave him some oxygen.

"I found out he had some GTN spray, which dilutes the blood around the heart and creates a better blood flow to the heart. I put a couple of squirts of that under his tongue.

"He was still looking not well at all, however he was still adamant he was going to Newcastle. I said 'I'm taking the decision out of your hands, you're not going to Newcastle'.

David Armstrong on holiday with his wife Debra
David Armstrong on holiday with his wife Debra -Credit:Chronicle Live

David said he had a word with the flight crew and asked them to divert the plane as soon as possible. They agreed and they landed at Nantes Atlantique Airport in France.

The grandfather said: "I advised them we should have some paramedics waiting.

"My concern was that he was going to have a full blown cardiac arrest. I could tell the chap was deteriorating and he would have went into cardiac arrest. That's why I had to get the aircraft down on the ground.

"The ambulance was waiting at the end of the runway with a police escort. We handed the gentleman over to the paramedics.

"The most embarrassing thing was when I went back to my seat the passengers burst into spontaneous applause. I only did what anyone else in the same position would do. Anyone else would do the same thing!

"We continued to Newcastle and we landed at about midnight. Unfortunately, for the people in Newcastle, they spent three hours waiting for us to arrive. The priority was the gentleman and making sure he was ok.

"The cabin crew were absolutely excellent. They said 'Would you like a drink? Anything you want.' They were really nice and I got a cup of coffee. They said 'Goodbye' as we got off and 'Thanks again'."

An easyJet plane at Newcastle Airport
An easyJet plane at Newcastle Airport -Credit:Newcastle Journal

David said just weeks earlier, on March 29, he helped another male passenger who had a seizure on a TUI plane from Singapore to Manchester.

He said: "I was coming back with my wife, we had been on a cruise around Asia. We were on a 14-hour flight from Singapore to Manchester. He had a seizure, I looked after him and he was ok. He was stable. I was happy to continue flying. I felt he was ok to continue back."

David said he has contacted easyJet to see if he can find out how the man is but they have been unable to provide him with any details. He believes that the man lives in the Newcastle area.

easyJet sent David a letter in which they said: "We appreciate your efforts, compassion and the medical expertise you showed on the day, and the Crew Performance manager has asked me to also pass on their thanks to you, for your prompt and invaluable assistance."

A spokesperson for easyJet told Chronicle Live: "We can confirm that flight EJU5517 from Alicante to Newcastle on 30 April diverted to Nantes due to a passenger onboard requiring urgent medical assistance.

"The passenger was assisted by Mr Armstrong as a medical professional onboard and our crew arranged for medical services to meet the aircraft on arrival where the passenger was transferred to hospital, before the flight continued to Newcastle.

"We have been in touch with the family to ensure their wellbeing and with Mr Armstrong to thank him for his support. The safety and wellbeing of customers and crew is our highest priority."