AUSTIN (NBC/KXAN) - An Austin man was onboard during the chaos on United Airline flight 1603 to Seattle Thursday evening when the pilot suffered what proved to be a fatal heart attack.
"It was a pretty nerve wracking landing because it was really quick. We dropped out of the sky. You just couldn't believe it, it was fast," said Jeff Moehlenburck of Austin.
"He made some really really radical moves to get us there but he did a good job. It was a decent landing," said Moehlenburck referring to the co-pilot.
The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Boise, Idaho, a hospital spokeswoman told NBC News.
A doctor and military personnel reportedly attempted to save the pilot’s life by administering CPR amid a dramatic scene, as another passenger rushed to help get the plane safely to the ground. The pilot was later identified as Henry Skillern, 63, of from Humble.
The spokeswoman at Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise confirmed the Skillern's death on Friday morning. United Airlines spokeswoman Christen David said that the flight’s captain was the individual involved in an email to NBC News.
Skillern was alive when he arrived at the local hospital but died during the night while being treated, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Krajnik told the Associated Press.
“I am sad to confirm that our co-worker passed away last night,” David said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Boise Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller told Reuters that the airport received a call “at about 7:55 p.m. Mountain Time declaring an emergency, they said the pilot had had a heart attack.”
"We've got a man down, chest compressions going on right now," a co-pilot said to the Boise tower, according to a recording of the flight-to-tower communication.
The plane landed less than 15 minutes later, Miller told the news service.
Passengers said two soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord on the flight assisted a doctor in attempting to treat the patient before the arrival of first responders, NBC News Seattle affiliate King 5 reported.
A passenger who trains Boeing 737 pilots aided the co-pilot as the plane made the emergency landing in Boise after the unconscious Skillern was removed from the cockpit, passengers said, according to the station.
Once on the ground, a pilot of another plane radioed air traffic control for information:
"What's going on?" the pilot asked.
"Medical emergency. The captain," came the answer.
"That's never good," the pilot replied.
The airport spokeswoman told Reuters that the plane’s passengers got off the plane and waited for another pilot to take over the flight. The flight landed in Seattle just after midnight local time.
The 737 had 161 passengers and six crew members on board. The name of the pilot has not been released.
This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.
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