A flying hero

August 08, 2001

Karen S. Kim

BURBANK -- When 20-year-old Erik Nelson boarded his Southwest Airlines

flight at Burbank Airport on June 19, he didn't know he was going to step

off the plane a hero.

The Burbank resident helped flight attendants on the flight treat a

passenger suffering from an epileptic seizure, using the training he

received from Burbank's Park, Recreation and Community Services


Department, he said.

"I am a product of Burbank," said Nelson, who attends UC Santa

Barbara. "I was a lifeguard at McCambridge and Verdugo [parks] for four

years and was trained and certified by the Red Cross of America. On the

plane, I realized how happy I am to have that training."

Home from school for the summer, Nelson donned a suit and tie and was

flying to Oakland with his father for an internship orientation on the

morning of June 19. About 15 minutes into the flight, passengers seated

behind him began screaming for help.

Nelson's reaction was immediate.

"Erik stood up in his seat, put his foot on my leg, jumped into the

aisle, grabbed this guy out of his seat and laid him in the aisle of the

airplane," said father Larry Nelson.

In his service as a lifeguard, Nelson was certified in several areas,

including CPR, water safety, emergency preparedness and life-guarding, he


"For me, it was just another day on the job, even though I was wearing

a suit and tie," Nelson said.

Aiding the flight attendants, Nelson elevated the legs of the sick

passenger and treated him for shock by bringing blankets and checking

vital signs until the flight landed and paramedics could take over.

"It was all instinctive. And when it was over, I couldn't believe I

had done it," Nelson said.

Last week, Southwest Airlines thanked Nelson for his service by giving

him a free round-trip ticket from the airline. The Burbank High School

graduate plans to visit his girlfriend in San Francisco with the ticket,

he said.

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