Branson's daughter orders jet diversion to Shannon

Tue, Dec 23, 2008, 00:00

THE DAUGHTER of billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson ordered the crew of one of her father's Virgin Atlantic jets to divert and land at Shannon airport on Saturday after a man on board complained of feeling unwell.

Virgin Atlantic flight VS33 was en route from Gatwick airport in London to VC Bird International Airport on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, an eight-hour 40-minute journey, when the captain declared a medical emergency and sought permission to divert and land at Shannon.

Just over an hour into the flight at about 10.45am, soon after the jet crossed the Irish coast, the crew contacted air traffic controllers in Shannon airport to report a passenger had complained of "feeling unwell" and that he may have suffered a cardiac episode.

Crash crews at Shannon were placed on standby while a cardiac ambulance and local doctor were also waiting when the packed jet touched down.

It is now known that Holly Branson (26) ordered the crew of the Virgin Atlantic jet to divert and land at Shannon. Ms Branson, who trained as a doctor for five years, had offered her assistance when a 47-year-old man on board had complained of feeling unwell.

Ms Branson treated the man in his seat and administered oxygen while also checking his blood pressure.

Fearing the man may have experienced a cardiac episode, Ms Branson spoke with medical personnel on the ground and decided that the aircraft should divert to the nearest airport.

The aircraft, which was carrying 426 passengers and crew, touched down at Shannon at 11.38am and taxied to the terminal building. The man was treated at the scene before being taken to Ennis General Hospital.

A spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive said the patient was discharged on Sunday afternoon after treatment. It is now thought that the man did not have a heart attack but may have instead suffered a panic attack, which can manifest itself in chest tightness or pain.

The flight continued to Antigua after refuelling. It is understood that former Formula 1 racing boss Eddie Jordan was also on the flight.

Ms Branson was travelling to the Caribbean to spend Christmas on Necker Island, which is owned by her father, in the British Virgin Islands.

She had completed five years of study to qualify as a junior doctor when she decided to take up an internship at one of her father's companies.