A DEVOTED daughter has spoken of her devastation at watching her father die on a transatlantic flight.
Marion Flood and her family had enjoyed an idyllic month-long stay in Florida over Christmas and New Year.
But her happiness was shattered when her 78- year-old father Phil Austin collapsed halfway through the nine-hour British Airways flight, having suffered a huge heart attack.
Despite the frantic efforts of the cabin crew who spent 50 minutes trying to revive him, following directions from medics on the ground, Mr Austin could not be saved.
Mrs Flood, of Redwing Road, Clanfield, said: ‘It was extremely traumatic for us, but it must have been awful for the other passengers too.
‘There was no indication that he was unwell. We had a nice lunch and he had a beer before he got on the plane.
‘It happened so suddenly. I suppose that’s what makes it worse – it was such a strange thing to happen.’
Mr Austin had been a director of IBM until he retired in 1990. He spent the last four years of his working life in Florida with his wife of 55 years, Sheila.
His daughter said they find it ironic that he died halfway between the two countries that he loved so much.
Her husband Terry, a retired detective, said: ‘We had a lovely Christmas and New Year. Marion’s brother lives in Chicago so we all met up in Florida. It was an annual event for us and Phil was happy as a sandboy.
‘He had got up and was struggling to get back into his seat and that’s when it happened. Let’s face it, at 39,000ft he couldn’t have been closer to heaven.’
When the family eventually arrived at Gatwick Airport, on January 18, they were met by police and paramedics.
Mrs Flood, who works for Portsmouth City Council, has nothing but praise for the cabin crew who desperately tried to save her father’s life.
She said: ‘They were brilliant and did everything they could to save him.
‘We will be forever grateful to the captain and his crew and for British Airways who obviously train their staff to the highest standards.’
Mr Austin, of Chandlers Ford, Southampton, was born in Wales and left school at 16 to help out his family.
Years later, with a young family, he put himself through university and gained a degree in electrical engineering and went on to become director of interactive systems at IBM.
His funeral was taking place in Southampton today. He leaves his wife, his daughter Marion, son Bryan Austin and three grandchildren.