A holidaymaker firefighter was hailed a hero yesterday after he saved the life of a "dying" woman who collapsed at 30,000 feet on a flight to Australia.
Neil Punt, 44, was flying towards Abu Dhabi with his family en route to Australia when a female passenger in front of him stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.
The pilot appealed for a doctor, but with none on the flight Neil – who had recently completed his First Person on Scene training – flew into action. He said: "It was during a night flight and most of the passengers were asleep. I became aware of a bit of a commotion a few rows in front of me and went to see if I could help.
"A lady on the flight had stopped breathing and had no pulse. The pilot put out a call to ask if there were any doctors or other medically trained passengers on board, but no one came forward.
"Using the first aid skills I have as a firefighter I applied three back slaps. When this did not work I tried the Heimlich manoeuvre, at which point she vomited and regained a pulse."
Neil, from Mark, Somerset, added: "She was in and out of consciousness for the rest of the flight to Abu Dhabi and there was talk of diverting the flight.
"I continued to assess and monitor the woman's condition. We eventually made it to our destination and the lady was taken away by the medical team who were waiting for her on our arrival."
Avon Fire & Rescue Service firefighter Neil received a letter of thanks from Etihad Airways thanking him for the mid-air heroism that no doubt saved the woman's life.
Etihad wrote: "The medical aid you gave may have helped to avoid what could have been a potentially unpleasant situation for the guest and we gratefully acknowledge your timely and unconditional help."
Married Neil, who is based at Weston-super-Mare Fire Station, said: "I'd recently completed my First Person on Scene (FPOS) training through my job as a firefighter. Having to deal with this incident certainly highlighted the importance of the training."
FPOS training, given to firefighters, police officers and community responders, gives them the skills to carry out immediate care in the first minutes of an emergency.