Robert Rippingale, a 31-year old New Zealander, died on a Jetstar flight from Singapore to Auckland after choking on his in-flight meal. Roughly 90 minutes into the 11-hour flight, Rippingale started shaking and choking, his girlfriend, Vanessa Preechakul, told the New Zealand Herald.
The couple, who met in Singapore, were en route to Auckland to celebrate Rippingale’s mom’s birthday.
“One minute we were sitting next to each other kissing, holding hands and the next minute he was choking”, said 27-year-old architect Vanessa Preechaku who met her boyfriend Robert Rippingale, 31, in Singapore where he had lived and worked for three years and planned the fated trip for them both to visit his homeland in New Zealand to surprise his parents on their 50th birthdays.
Approximately one and a half hours into the 11-hour flight the cabin crew served a choice of beef or chicken dinner meals to passengers.
Mr Rippingale opted for the beef meal while watching a movie when suddenly Miss Preechakul noticed him shaking but didn’t realise that there was anything wrong.
A doctor and two nurses on board performed CPR on him in the plane’s galley after Preechakul screamed for help. “The doctor came to me and said he was so sorry; he did his best,” Preechakul told the paper.
Rippingale’s body was then moved to the crew rest area behind a curtain and covered with a blanket. The crew allowed Preechakul to sit with him for the remaining nine hours of the flight.
Andrew McGinnes, a Jetstar spokesman, expressed his condolences and said: “This was a very difficult and sad event and our sympathies are with the passenger’s family.” He added that the cause of death was unknown at this time and an autopsy will be performed this month.