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    Mom of overheated child on 'dangerously hot' United Airlines' plane says incident was 'worst moment' of her life

    By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
    June 29, 2017, 7:02:59 AM EDT

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    Last week’s record-breaking Southwest heat wave turned hellish at Denver International Airport when a child overheated aboard a grounded United Airlines flight.

    “His whole body flashed red, his eyes rolled back in his head and he was screaming, then he went limp in my arms,” the child’s mother, Emily France, told the Denver Post.

    “It was the worst moment of my life,” she added.

    The child was released from the hospital on the same day of the incident, according to NBC News.

    A heat-related illness plagued France’s 4-month-old son on June 22, as the aircraft sat on Denver International Airport’s tarmac in searing 90-degree temperatures.

    Flight 4644 was originally scheduled to depart at 1:50 p.m. MDT.

    Plane mid-flight

    (Photo/vuk8691/Getty Images)


    However, crew had informed passengers that the plane required additional fuel due to a change in flight path to avoid bad weather, the Denver Post reported.

    France criticized United Airlines for “not [being] equipped” to handle her son’s medical emergency during the flight delay.

    “We just sat and sat and sat,” France told the Denver Post. “I hit my call button and said, ‘I think it’s getting dangerously hot back here,’” she said.

    France and her child were seated in the plane’s rear, where she tried to cool her son off with wet wipes.

    According to CNBC, France and her son were permitted to leave the aircraft for about 20 minutes before being asked to return to her seat for takeoff.

    She said that flight crew also provided bags of ice for her and another mother to place on their children and allowed France to stand near an open door.

    France recalled warm air blowing from the plane’s air vents during the near two hours she and her son were on board.

    “On some aircraft, the A/C systems are not as robust on the ground when the engines are at low power,” said Patrick Smith, airline pilot and curator of travel blog Ask the Pilot.

    This can contribute to uncomfortable cabin conditions on hot days, he said.

    The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has recommended that passengers should not board an aircraft if the cabin temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

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    “It’s possible something was not functioning properly, or the crew had shut down one of the engines to conserve fuel during the ground delay,” Smith said.

    France said that at one point, her overheating child began to drift in and out of consciousness.

    The Denver Post reported that France and other passengers requested that the plane return to the gate.

    The pilot eventually drove the aircraft back to the gate as the flight crew called for paramedics. The child received medical care 16 minutes after the call.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), children are particularly at risk for heat-related illness and death.

    Their bodies are less able to adapt to heat than adults, the EPA stated.

    “Babies overheat very quickly because they don’t sweat well, their sweat glands are not fully developed,” said Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City.

    The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that 94 people succumbed to heat-related illnesses in 2016.

    Five of those victims were aged 9 or younger, according to the NWS.

    “I’ve never been on a plane that was so hot that a child would overheat, so it must have been really warm on that plane,” said Hes.

    In a statement to NBC News, United Airlines said, “We are profoundly sorry to our customer and her child for the experience they endured. We are actively looking into what happened to prevent this from occurring again.”

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