Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot's Medical Emergency

Duke professor who was piloting the plane did not survive
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2024 12:30 AM CDT
Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot's Medical Emergency
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / mrdoomits)

A passenger successfully landed a private plane in North Carolina on Sunday after the pilot suffered a fatal medical emergency during the flight. Duke professor Joseph Izatt, 61, was flying the single-engine Cirrus SR-20 when he "slumped over the controls," according to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and the sole passenger took over and made an emergency landing at the airport, ABC 11 reports. The plane took off around 3:30pm and landed about an hour and 20 minutes later. Few details were made public, including the specific nature of Izatt's emergency, but bystander video shows him being loaded into an ambulance after the landing. He did not survive, and Duke, where he'd taught since 2001, mourned his loss in a memorial post.

He was the Department of Biomedical Engineering chair and the Michael J. Fitzpatrick Professor of Engineering, held more than 75 patents, and had published more than 200 papers, WRAL and NBC News report. "Izatt was a skilled researcher and inventor who played a foundational role in the development of optical coherence tomography (OCT)," Duke says. "The non-invasive medical imaging technique uses optical interferometry to peer through layers of soft tissue, such as the retina at the back of the eye, to provide richly detailed images that guide diagnosis and treatment decisions." He is survived by a wife and three children. (More North Carolina stories.)

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