The Washington Post/Getty Images
Stacey Leasca
Updated December 13, 2018

Earlier this week, passengers on board a Southwest flight were a bit shocked to find out their plane had to turn back. It wasn’t due to weather or mechanical issues. Instead, the plane was forced to turn around because a human heart was left on the plane.

The flight’s captain, The Seattle Times reported, came over the intercom to explain that the heart was meant to be left in Seattle. However, the delivery was accidently left on the plane during the previous flight from Sacramento.

According to Southwest spokesperson Dan Landson, heading back to the Seattle airport was “absolutely necessary” to get the cargo back “as quickly as possible.” He added, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day.”

Dr. Andrew Gottschalk, one of the passengers on the flight, said he and his fellow passengers were more than happy to turn the plane around to deliver the heart and hopefully save a life. However, he questions how this ever happened in the first place. He told The Seattle Times the incident was a “horrific story of gross negligence,” adding, “The heart in question traveled from California to Washington, to the other side of Idaho, and back to Washington.”

And, the mystery gets even thicker. According to The Seattle Times, no Seattle-area hospitals said they were involved, and spokespeople for regional organ-procurement organizations said they never use commercial flights for heart transplants.

“We only use private flights,” Katherine Pliska, spokeswoman for LifeCenter Northwest, the organization that facilitates the transfer of organs for transplant in the Pacific Northwest, told The Seattle Times. “There’s a time limit to get where it needs to go.”

No word on if the heart made it to its intended destination on time. However, passengers certainly didn’t make it to theirs. Once they landed back in Seattle, the passengers were asked to deplane due to an unrelated mechanical issue. After a five-hour delay, they finally got on their way. This time with no extra hearts on the plane.

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