American Flight Attendant Passes Away On Flight With Wife

It’s been a sad and challenging week for US carrier American Airlines, who lost a flight attendant mid-flight on July 5th. Flight attendant Joe Tormes passed away at the age of 61 during a flight from Indianapolis to Dallas after feeling ill. His wife, also a flight attendant, was working on the same flight. Tormes had spent 20 years working for American Airlines.

American A319
The Airbus A319 was operating flight 1296 when the incident happened. Photo: Getty Images

Details of the July 5th flight

According to USA TODAY, the incident occurred on July 5th aboard American Airlines flight AA1296 from Indianapolis (Indiana) to Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas). While the daily flight normally takes off at 08:00 and lands at its destination at around 09:14 local time, Mr. Tormes’ passing resulted in a diversion to St. Louis about an hour after take-off. Coincidentally, Tormes was based out of St. Louis.

Data from lists the Airbus A319 as having left St. Louis at 13:54 local time to continue its journey to Dallas. A new crew was dispatched, and the plane took off for Dallas in the afternoon.

The aircraft finally arrived at its intended destination at 15:26 local time, nearly six hours past the scheduled arrival time.

flightradar aa1296 diversion
Flight AA1296 was diverted to St. Louis Lambert International Airport – the same airport that Tormes was based out of. Photo:

Reaction from American Airlines and APFA

In a statement provided to Simple Flying, American Airlines issued the following statement:

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the sudden passing of Joe Tormes, St. Louis based flight attendant, on Sunday, July 5, 2020. Joe and his wife Elsa Jett-Tormes were working a flight together when Joe passed away. Joe flew with American for 20 years.”

The airline’s statement goes on to say that it is working directly with the family to support their needs, naming his Tormes’ wife Elsa Jett-Tormes and son Brandon Jett.

Special thanks was also extended to the Airport Customer Service and Flight Ops teams at St. Louis “for their support for Jett and our customers onboard the flight.”

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) issued an identical statement signed by four organizational leaders: Nena Martin (APFA St. Louis Base President), Julie Hedrick (APFA National President), Jill Surdek (Senior Vice President, Flight Service), and Rey Ocasio (Base Manager, St. Louis)

Details for a memorial service and donations are pending.

A tragic loss

The loss of any life in any circumstance is saddening. However, this situation appears to be even more difficult given the relatively sudden nature of the incident combined with the fact that Mr. Tormes was working in the air at the time.

To make matters even more heartbreaking, Tormes’ wife was working alongside him at the time.

Grounded American Airlines aircraft
Flying once per day, flight AA1296 has also been operated using a Boeing 737. Photo: Getty Images

The cause of death was not disclosed by American Airlines or the APFA and remains unknown.

Simple Flying joins American Airlines and the APFA in expressing condolences and extending well wishes to the colleagues and family of Mr. Tormes.