United Airlines passenger ‘stung by scorpion’ on flight

Chantal Da Silva
Linda Bell says she feared for her husband Richard’s life after he was stung by the scorpion in mid-air: Richard Bell

A Canadian man says he was stung by a scorpion while travelling on a United Airlines flight.

Richard Bell said the insect fell from the overhead luggage rack onto his head after flight attendants distributed lunch on the flight from Houston, Texas to Calgary in Canada last week.

It happened on Sunday, the same day another United passenger, Dr David Dao, was violently dragged from a plane after refusing to give up his seat to a staff member.

“It fell out of the overhead onto my head and I picked it up and was holding it and the guy next to me said ‘that’s a scorpion’ so I dropped it,” Mr Bell told The Independent.

“I tried to pick it up again and that’s when it stung me.”

Mr Bell, who was travelling with his wife, Linda, said he shook the scorpion onto the floor.

“Then we got out of our seats and stomped on it and the flight crew threw it in the toilet.”

A scorpion like this one landed on Richard Bell’s head before stinging him (Getty)

Linda Bell said that while she and her husband can laugh over the incident now, at the time she feared for his life.

“I’m sitting there watching him and thinking, ‘is this it?’. We have two kids back home. I was just staring at him and waiting to see if there was any reaction.”

Airline staff made calls immediately after the incident to try to determine how poisonous the scorpion was and a nurse who happened to be on board gave him some of the painkiller Demerol.

“When we landed, there was all kinds of commotion with EMS and border control,” Mr Bell said.

Border service agents also boarded the plane once it landed to inspect the insect and were concerned once they found out it had already been flushed down a toilet.

“That caused a bit of trouble because when we landed, the border control wanted to see it,” Ms Bell said. “They said, ‘if this man had a reaction, we wouldn't know how to treat the venom’.”

“I can’t blame them because they panicked. They didn't want it on the plane,” Ms Bell added.

However, she did say that she felt the airline was under-prepared for what could have been a serious medical incident.

“I think it was a wake up call and a learning experience for everybody involved.”

Mr Bell was taken to hospital, where doctors told him he would be fine.

He said he thought the scorpion had come from another passenger’s guitar case, which was the only other piece of luggage stored in the overhead compartment, along with his laptop case.

United Airlines has offered the couple flying credit as compensation for the incident.

The Bells said they will still fly with United Airlines and have a flight scheduled with the carrier for next week.

They said they were, however, surprised to discover the incident happened on the same day that Mr Dao was dragged off his United Airlines flight.

The doctor’s lawyers have said he may file a lawsuit against the airline after he suffered a number of injuries when he was forcibly removed from the plane.