A British mother “died in her sleep” while flying back to the UK with her husband and children, a friend said.
Mother of two and midwife Helen Rhodes was returning home with her family following a 15-year “adventure” living in Hong Kong.
A few hours into the long-haul flight, Ms Rhodes became unresponsive and could not be resuscitated.
"This all unfolded in front of her children,” her friend Jayne Jeje said on a GoFundMe page set up to support the family.
For the remaining eight hours, Ms Rhodes’ “lay in a breathless sleep in her seat”.
“Although this was extremely traumatizing to the family, they all had time to say what they needed to say to her. Needless to mention, they are devastated,” Ms Jeje wrote.
When the plane landed in Frankfurt, Ms Rhodes’ body remained in the German city, while her husband Simon and their two children Nathan and Emma returned to the UK.
Ms Jeje said: “Helen and her family wrapped up a life in Hong Kong of over 15 years to embark on a new chapter living back home in the UK.
“Helen was excited and nervous about the move, but looked forward to seeing her family back home, as she had not seen her family or ageing parents since the pandemic began. Sadly, she never got to see them again.”
She described Ms Rhodes as a “one-of-a-kind gem” who was the “glue that held the family together”.
While living in Hong Kong's Tung Chung area, Ms Rhodes was known as the “pulse of her community” and would be stopped on the street by all the people she knew.
She became an invaluable member of a local motherhood group in the district and members’ point of reference for anything medical related, Ms Jeje said.
In a tribute towards the end of the post, Ms Jeje added: “This fundraiser is to honour this lovely woman who was loved by so many, a dear friend who touched so many people.
“We can only hope she knew how much she meant to us, and how her void can never be filled. How this loss is so painful and surreal.
“The grief we feel is paralysing. Yet, we feel lucky to have known her.”
Tung Chung resident Andrew Spires also paid tribute to Ms Rhodes. Writing on Facebook he said: “Sadly Tung Chung's very own Helen Rhodes passed away on a flight back to the UK. She was with her husband Simon, and two kids.
“I knew Helen only on a ‘school gates’ level but she was the most caring, generous and thoughtful person; also the most chatty! Tung Chung and school pick-up won't be the same without you.”