Hero Pilot Holds Plane For Grandpa of Murdered Boy Who Donated Organs to Save 25 Lives

Jan 25, 2011
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Caught between being a tearjerker and heartwarming is the real life story of the tragic end of little boy’s life that may have saved up to 25 lives by donating his organs.

Consumer advocate and journalist Christopher Elliott shared a true story of a young boy who was brutally murdered and a nameless pilot who was a hero. Nancy is one of his loyal readers and she sent him this emotional story that you can read in full here.

Nancy wrote, “Last night, my husband and I got the tragic news that our three-year-old grandson in Denver had been murdered by our daughter’s live-in boyfriend,” she wrote. “He is being taken off life support tonight at 9 o’clock and his parents have opted for organ donation, which will take place immediately. Over 25 people will receive his gift tonight and many lives will be saved.”

In the morning, her husband arrived two hours early at LAX airport to discover the baggage check and security check lines were tremendously long. He knew he wasn’t going to make it through them in time to catch his flight. Heartsick about his grandson and worried about his daughter, already on the verge of tears, he kept pleading with TSA and Southwest employees to fast track him through so he would make the flight. Even though he explained over and over that this was his last chance to see his grandson, not one person seemed to care and no one helped him.

Several minutes past the plane’s departure time, he cleared security. He grabbed his computer bag, shoes and belt, and ran in his stocking feet to his terminal — where the pilot and Southwest ticket agent were waiting on him.

“Are you Mark?” the pilot reportedly asked. “We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson. They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

The pilot held the plane for 12 minutes, which may not seem like much but imagine the people who complained or demanded compensation. Elliott wrote, “Southwest can turn an entire plane around in about 20 minutes, so 12 minutes is half an eternity.”

After Elliott wrote to Southwest, the airline said it was “proud” of the pilot instead of punishing him for holding up a flight.

There is no good news when a three-year-old, or anyone for that matter, is brutally murdered. It’s tragic. By donating his organs, however, 25 people who were waiting for organs, some of whom would otherwise die, were given the greatest gift — a chance to live.

According to OrganDonor.gov, there are currently 110,179 waiting list candidates. OrganDonor states, “Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people. Giving the ‘Gift of Life’ may lighten the grief of the donor’s own family. Many donor families say that knowing other lives have been saved helps them cope with their tragic loss.”

The organ donor system is far from perfect, but if you are so inclined, you might consider saving lives by registering to be an organ and tissue donor with your state registry.

Image credit: Mike Fisher

Author: Tessa



  • Ragg

    Why is the pilot a hero again???

  • Guest

    The Pilots’ help is a one in a million.

  • Naols125

    I wonder how the pilot found out when none of the TSA/Southwest people cared.

  • dimeadozen

    I think the story is missing something big. Even though it paints as the TSA and the others at southwest as “not one person seemed to care and no one helped him”, there is no way the pilot would have even known the situation if it wasn’t for the Southwest ticket counter employees or even the TSA. The pilots don’t personally know anyone’s story and are blissfully unaware of passenger problems. Someone from Southwest advised the gate agent of the situation. The gate agents were the ones that probably held the plane for the passenger and decided with the pilot. But the story paints it like everyone else was an a hole and the pilot was this glowing hero. I think any reasonable person/pilot would have done the same thing had they known about the situation. I guess it’s good for everyone to think of the glowing pilot with his shiny pilot wings making these decisions. In reality it was the Southwest customer service agents that were the REAL heros. Thanks to the author for screwing up the story.

  • NG

    While I agree that the pilot could not have known the situation without the help of other Southwest employees, I think that it is unfair to only attack the author of this post. If you read the original articles or watched the news coverage you would know that almost if not all media outlets focused on the pilot. Do I think other employees that were involved in this situation should be acknowledged, absolutely! What a great act of kindness. But let’s blame all media outlets for that making that mistake.

  • Ride0943

    Whoever programmed that tweet/like/digg/fshare/buzz logo without a “close” button should be fired immediately

  • GoodStuff

    you are the man and without question so is the pilot.

  • http://www.pilotsalary.co/ Pilot Salary

    I feel nothing short of pride and admiration for the pilot of that flight. I understand the pressure a pilot has for an on time departure. It certainly restores my faith in human compassion.