Vanessa Preechakul and her boyfriend Robert Rippingale were headed to his Auckland birthplace from Singapore to meet his parents when the unthinkable happened: Rippingdale choked on a piece of airline meat while watching the in-flight movie and could not be revived.
Rippingdale, 31, was so excited for the trip that the couple arrived to the Singapore airport six hours early for Jetstar flight, Preechakul, 27, told the Daily Mail. It would have the first time Preechakul would have met his parents, who were both celebrating birthdays.
Now they will meet for the first time under the worst imaginable circumstances.
Rippingdale was pronounced dead less than two hours into the 11-hour trip, and a devasted Preechakul, who is an architect in Singapore, begged to stay by his side for the remainder of the flight.
Preechakul initially did not realize that Rippingdale was in distress when he began shaking while eating the in-flight meal. I thought he was laughing very hard, she told the Daily Mail. Then I looked at his face and his eyes were rolling and he couldn't talk. His lips were turning purple.
When Preechakul realized what was happening she screamed for help. A doctor and two nurses who were passengers on the flight rushed to help to provide CPR , but they could not save him. His body was covered with a blanket and laid in a crew rest area, where Preechakul was permitted to remain for the duration of the flight.
One minute we were sitting next to each other kissing, holding hands and the next minute he was choking, Preechakul told the Daily Mail.
I'm struggling to come to terms with his death. He was so outgoing and generous.
Jetstar is a discount subsidiary of Quantas airlines.
This was a very difficult and sad event and our sympathies are with the passenger's family, Jetstar spokesman Andrew McGinnes said in a statement. The airline is offering $100 vouchers to passengers who were on the flight.
Rippingale's father, David, told police that his son had an existing heart condition. Results of a coroner's inquest will be released next month.