New York-bound Hawaiian Airlines flight makes emergency landing in San Francisco after longtime flight attendant dies

A flight attendant died on a Hawaiian Airlines flight, surrounded by colleagues.

January 26, 2019, 11:09 AM

A Hawaiian Airlines plane from Honolulu to New York was diverted to San Francisco after a flight attendant died on board, the airline announced on Friday.

Emile Griffith, who was "a member of our flight attendant ‘ohana' [family] for over 31 years," passed away "while working on our flight between Honolulu and New York last night," the airline's senior vice president of corporate communications, Ann Botticelli, wrote in a statement.

"We are forever grateful for Emile’s colleagues and good samaritans on board who stayed by his side and provided extensive medical help. Emile both loved and treasured his job at Hawaiian and always shared that with our guests. Our hearts are with Emile’s family, friends and all those fortunate to have known him," Botticelli wrote.

The New York-bound flight, which had 253 passengers and 12 crewmembers, departed Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Thursday afternoon. It was headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

"The flight diverted to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), where it landed shortly after 11 p.m. local time. We sincerely appreciate our guests’ patience and understanding while our agents and crew worked with medical personnel upon arrival at SFO," Botticelli added.

Hawaiian said all guests were rebooked and will be compensated. The airline also said counseling was available to its employees.

Passenger Andrea Bartz, a thriller writer who was traveling to New York, tweeted about the incident.

"It's been a long time since they asked for doctors to come to first class so I hope they're okay. First time I've ever had a flight diverted, somehow. Waiting for medics to board now," she wrote.

"Btw if you’re ever going to have a medical emergency in the air, this is the flight to do it on. So many doctors came forward they had to make a second announcement like “never mind, all set!!” she continued.

It seems as though fliers were left somewhat in the dark as the crew attended to Griffith.

"There are cops, too, and no one’s moving with any urgency and they just had an elderly man with a yarmulke come up to the front. Did someone die?" Bartz wrote.

PHOTO: A sign directing travelers to drive thru check-in at Hawaiian Airlines Inc. is displayed at an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 9, 2013.
A sign directing travelers to drive thru check-in at Hawaiian Airlines Inc. is displayed at an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 9, 2013.
Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office was not immediately available to provide a cause of death. Representatives for SFO referred ABC News to Hawaiian.

The flight attendants' union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, declined to comment on the frequency of inflight deaths.

“We’re incredibly saddened by the loss of our dear flying partner," the union wrote in an emailed statement to ABC News. "We offer our love and support to the Flight Attendant’s family and crew. We will do everything we can to support them in this challenging time."

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