Passenger talks about pilot's death on flight

June 21, 2009 9:51:24 AM PDT
A Houstonian on board Flight 61 returned home this weekend and told us what the situation was like for her and other passengers.Dora Dekeyser was among the 254 passengers aboard Flight 61when midflight she heard the call for a doctor and saw a flight attendant with a defibrillator. But neither she nor the others on board knew that their pilot, captain, 60-year-old Craig Lenell, was dead and could not be revived. Authorities think he suffered a heart attack.

Dekeyser says it was good that crew members never announced what happened.

"There was no use for that because most passengers would have panicked and it would have been chaos for duration of the flight," said Dekeyser.

In fact, Dekeyser said it wasn't until she arrived in Newark and phoned her daughter that she learned what happened.

"When we landed I called my daughter to tell her we landed," she recalled. "And she said, 'Mom your flight was on the news'. 'My flight on the news? Why?'"

Dekeyser praises Continental for its professionalism on Flight 61 and she sends her prayers to Lenell's family. She was especially moved knowing that Lenell and his wife raised their children in a north Harris County neighborhood.

Lenell had been an employee at Continental Airlines for 32 years. Lenell shared a home with his wife in north Houston and a ranch near Huntsville.

A plane carrying the body of Craig Lenell landed at Bush Intercontinental Airport, just after 10:30pm.

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