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New Zealander dies while eating on board Jetstar flight

(Xinhua)

13:35, September 05, 2011

SINGAPORE, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealander working in Singapore died on board a Jetstar flight to Auckland last week after apparently choking on his inflight meal, a local newspaper reported on Monday.

Robert Rippingale, 31, was heading home with his architect girlfriend Vanessa Preechakul on Monday last week when the incident happened. Meals were served shortly after the flight took off and Preechakul noticed that her boyfriend was shaking violently while eating his beef dish.

"I thought he was laughing because he was watching a movie, and I asked him what was so funny. There was no answer and he was still shaking, and it just didn't feel right," the Straits Times quoted Preechakul as saying over the phone from Rippingale's home in Auckland.

Preechakul alerted the flight attendant and one of the stewards cut off a necklace around Rippingale's neck, but that did not help. A doctor and two nurses who were on the flight quickly rushed to help as the crew moved his body into the galley. They performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him but was unable to revive him.

Rippingale was pronounced dead half an hour into the flight.

The couple, both working in Singapore, had been on their way to celebrate the 50th birthday of Rippingale's parents.

Family members said Rippingale was born with a heart defect, though they were not sure if it had been a factor in his death.

Rippingale was buried in Auckland on Saturday. Jetstar said that the cause of his death was unknown and that a coroner's inquest will be held later this month.

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