Human heart left onboard Southwest flight prompts in-air turnaround

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A human heart that was left onboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Seattle to Dallas prompted an in-air turnaround of the plane Sunday. 

According to the Seattle Times, the captain told passengers that the heart was intended for delivery to an unnamed Seattle-area hospital after a previous flight from Sacramento. 

Southwest spokesman Dan Landson told the newspaper it was “absolutely necessary” to get the precious cargo back “as quickly as possible.”

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day,” Landson told the Times.

The heart had traveled from California to Washington state, then to Idaho and finally Washington, according to the paper.

The Southwest flight spent about three hours in the air before landing back at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

Upon landing and unloading of the “life-critical cargo shipment,” passengers were told to deplane due to an “unrelated mechanical issue,” Landon told the Times. 

The flight was delayed for 5 hours before returning to the skies for its final destination.

Southwest did not release the name of the company that had shipped the human heart, but confirmed it specialized in “life critical” shipments. 

A heart transplant usually needs to occur within four hours of organ removal for the donor organ to remain usable, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

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