Passenger lands small plane at RDU after pilot suffers medical emergency

Josh Chapin Image
Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Passenger lands small plane at RDU after pilot's medical emergency
The pilot, a prominent Duke University professor, died after suffering a medical emergency in the skies above the Triangle.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11 has learned that a prominent Duke University professor has died after suffering a medical emergency while at the controls of an airplane flying over the Triangle on Sunday.

Someone else took over the single-engine plane and made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Cell phone video from an eyewitness showed those dramatic moments of paramedics loading a person into the back of an ambulance.

The video was shot by Evan Caulfield. He was minutes away from dropping his daughter off for a commercial flight. Caulfield is part of the group Fuquay Fire Buffs and is always listening to his scanner radio.

"I knew I was witnessing something," he said.

The plane took off around 3:30 p.m. according to Flight Aware and came back around 4:50 pm.

RDU said someone in the passenger seat took over the controls of the Cirrus SR-20 after the pilot was "slumped over the controls," according to air traffic control audio.

The tail number on the back of the plane is registered to Coherent Aviation, which comes back comes to a North Raleigh home and Joseph Izatt.

One of Izatt's mentees confirmed that Izatt was at the controls when this happened.

Izatt is the chair of the biomedical engineering department at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

The school announced his death in a letter to the Duke community Monday.

Izatt has been at Duke since 2001 and according to his bio, he was a pioneer in the field of biomedical imaging.

He published more than 200 papers and holds more than 75 US patents.

The dean of the school of engineering said they're sad to "have lost a school leader who proudly led with his heart."