A Continental Airlines captain died today during a flight from Brussels to Newark. Capt. Craig Alan Lenell, 60, was in command of Continental Flight 61, a Boeing 777, when he passed away about halfway through the trans-Atlantic crossing. The two other pilots on board completed the flight, landing safely at Newark.
Capt. Lenell's wife, Lynda, told Houston TV station KHOU that the first officer on Flight 61 "thought her husband had fallen asleep during the flight, but they couldn’t wake him up. That’s when they realized something was wrong and called for a doctor."
A cardiologist who was a passenger on the flight responded to a call for assistance by the crew. The cardiologist, identified in several news reports as Dr. Julien Struyven of Belgium, reportedly used a defibrillator to try to resuscitate Capt. Lenell, but was unsuccessful.
Mrs. Lenell said that her husband "was in perfect health" and had no known heart condition. His most recent physical exam had been in March of this year.
Capt. Lenell, who was based in Newark, had worked for Continental Airlines for 32 years. He was a former Air Force pilot who had served in Vietnam. He lived with his wife in Flynn, TX. They had been married since 1973, and had several children and grandchildren.
"Flying was his life," Mrs. Lenell said. "He died doing what made him happiest."
Sincere condolences to Capt. Lenell's family, flying partners and friends.