A number of high-profile celebrities and entertainers passed away over the last few days, including comedian Ed McMahon, pop star Michael Jackson, actress Farrah Fawcett, and TV pitchman Billy Mays.
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with the world of travel?
Well, Mays, 50, who passed away in his sleep on Sunday, recently flew on a US Airways jet that made a hard landing, which many believed may somehow have been connected to his death.
Though you may not have known Mays’ name, you most likely knew his face and his booming voice, which he used to great effect on television to sell products such as Oxi Clean, Orange Glo, and many others.
Recent US Airways News:
- Blaming Bad Publicity, US Airways Drops Beverage Fees
- US Airways, Virgin, Other Airlines Laying Off Thousands
- Recession Taking a Bite Out of International Air Travel
- As Other Airlines Struggle, AirTran Posts Q1 Profit
On Saturday Mays was on US Airways flight 1241 from Philadelphia to Tampa, which blew a tire on landing and reportedly shook passengers up quite a bit. Mays told a local TV station shortly after the flight landed that he had been hit on the head by falling luggage, but he felt fine.
Before going to sleep that night Mays told his wife that he didn’t feel well, then early Sunday morning she found him dead in his bed. Naturally this led to speculation that he may have suffered a undetected brain injury that slowly killed him, a fate similar to that of actress Natasha Richardson.
Richardson died in March 2009 several hours after suffering a minor blow to the head while skiing in Canada. She told medical staff that she felt normal immediately after the fall, but later the same day she lapsed into an irreversible coma brought on by intracranial bleeding.
Well, late breaking autopsy reports put paid to the theory that Mays may have died of head trauma by stating that heart disease was the primary cause of death. But it still raises questions about in-cabin security. How at risk of being injured are passengers during severe turbulence or a rough landing?
Though US Airways said in a public statement that no one reported being injured on flight 1241, many do get injured while on planes, by everything from falling luggage to wayward beverage carts to bathroom doors.
The Flight Safety Foundation surveyed airlines in the mid-1990s and found that 10,000 people worldwide were injured every year by falling luggage alone, and about 4,500 in the United States. Though the survey revealed that some of the injuries included head trauma, there is no indication that anyone died from a head injury related to a falling object.
Turbulence, on the other hand, causes far fewer injuries overall than falling objects, but can actually kill you. Between 2003-2007, there were 57 turbulence events on aircraft where at least one person onboard was seriously injured, and since 1980 at least six people have died from turbulence, according to AirSafe.com.
Read more about travel safety in our Travel Safety & Security section.
The moral of the story? Planes can be dangerous; but you knew that already. There’s a reason why the cabin crew repeatedly reminds passengers to stay in their seats and keep their seat belts fastened, overhead bins shut, and personal items safely tucked under the seat.
It’s sad that Billy Mays died, but it’s somehow reassuring to other flyers that a plane did not cause his death. In fact, NTSB statistics show that over the last 10 years the number of injuries on planes has gone down, a trend we hope will continue.
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.