Pilot Suffers Deadly Medical Emergency in Midair, Forcing Passenger to Step In

Pilot Suffers Deadly Medical Emergency in Midair, Forcing Passenger to Step In

A passenger aboard a small airplane safely landed in North Carolina Sunday after the pilot suffered a medical emergency and died.

The two were the only ones aboard the small Cirrus SR-20 when the tragic death occurred, WRAL-TV reported.

According to the news station, Joe Izatt was piloting the plane with another person who was not identified. Izatt was a professor at Duke University and was the chairman of the school’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

After he fell unconscious while piloting the airplane, his passenger took over the controls, according to WRAL.

The person safely landed the plane at a secondary runway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The airport said the landing and Izatt’s death aboard the plane did not affect other air traffic.

The nature of Izatt’s medical emergency has not been disclosed. The plane he had been flying was registered to him as well as to a Raleigh-based private company called Coherent Aviation.


Flags on Duke’s campus were ordered to be lowered on Monday, the school announced.

In a statement, the school remembered Izatt as a long-serving educator who cared about his students and his work.

“Since joining Duke in 2001, Izatt served the university through dedicated service to his students and colleagues, and as a pioneering researcher,” the school said in a statement.

The statement added, “During his tenure as chair of Duke BME, he championed the successes of all within the community and worked with faculty, staff and students to ensure the department supported their goals.”

Two other Duke professors issued statements that described Izatt as a person of integrity who others held in “very high esteem.”

The school also honored the late professor by highlighting his research achievements and their practical uses in medicine.

Duke’s statement said:

“Izatt was a skilled researcher and inventor who played a foundational role in the development of optical coherence tomography (OCT). The non-invasive medical imaging technique uses optical interferometry to peer through layers of soft tissue, such as the retina at the back of the eye, to provide richly detailed images that guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.”

The school concluded, “This is a significant loss for the academic community Izatt championed, and the impact of his legacy will be felt for years to come.”

The late professor is survived by his wife and three children.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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