A Southwest Airlines flight was forced to turn back after they discovered that a human heart had been left on board. Headed from Seattle to Dallas, the plane was over eastern Idaho -- around 600 miles (950 kilometers) into the journey when staff discovered that they forgot the "life critical cargo shipment," meant for delivery back in a Seattle hospital after being transported from California.
"Once we realized the error we immediately worked to return to Seattle," airline spokesman Dan Landson told AFP. The organ was loaded onto Flight 3606 in Sacramento on Sunday and set to be picked up by a courier at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport shortly after landing at 2:15 p.m. PT (5:15 p.m. ET) — but was accidentally left on board, officials said. While the airline didn’t disclose the name of the company that shipped the organ or the hospital it was supposed to be delivered, the Seattle Times reported that the flight's captain told horrified passengers the cargo was a human heart.
Experts say that a human heart can typically be stored for between four and six hours for a transplant but in this case, the heart was harvested only for its valves, and thus had 48 hours of viability until reaching a lab, said Deanna Santana, spokeswoman for Sierra Donor Services, which organized the donation and delivery to the Sacramento airport. "This delay did not affect the tissue transplant. It got to the lab in plenty of time to be used," Santana told NBC News. "There was no patient in a hospital waiting for a valve."
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