Plane lands in Houston after passenger dies

HOUSTON - A woman died on an international flight that landed in Houston on Wednesday.

Houston police said the 25-year-old woman walked out of a lavatory then collapsed on American Airlines flight 962 from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

A doctor on board tried to save the woman's life, but it was too late. The woman died on the plane.

The plane, which was headed to Dallas, was diverted to Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and landed shortly after 6:30 a.m.

An autopsy will determine the cause of the woman's death. Her name has not been released.

Police said the flight continued on to Dallas more than two hours later and landed at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport shortly before 10:30 a.m.

Federal law requires a defibrillator on every flight with a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds, a rule that covers major airliners, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said. It also requires flight attendants to have CPR and defibrillator training at least once every two years.

Spokesman Matt Miller said every American flight has an extensive medical kit and an automated external defibrillator. Flight attendants must complete annual CPR and medical training approved by the FAA, he said.

In addition, American is one of the few airlines with trained medical professionals on staff, Miller said. Doctors are on call 24 hours a day and available to work with flight crews.

While onboard deaths are not unheard of, it's not clear how many there are. The FAA does not keep track, Brown said.

A Vanderbilt University study published in 2003 based on a review of an unidentified major airline showed 1.52 "medical diversions" for every billion passenger miles flown. Another study published the same year from George Washington University put the number of deaths at one unidentified airline for all of 1999 at 0.1 per million passengers.

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