The family of a British woman who died during a flight from Hong Kong to the UK were sat next to her for eight hours after efforts to save her were unsuccessful, a friend said.
Helen Rhodes, 46, was travelling home to the UK to begin a “new chapter” with her husband Simon and two children.
The family had lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and were planning on renovating their UK home on return, neighbours have said.
Neighbour and friend of the family, John Moore, told Mail Online that Mrs Rhodes might have suffered from a sudden heart attack.
The 87-year-old said: “It’s a terrible tragedy. They think she suffered a heart attack. Her mother came round this morning and told me about it. She was in tears and my wife was in tears.
“I just can’t understand it. She was so fit and healthy and she worked in the medical profession.
“We were all looking forward to them coming back and seeing the children.”
Another neighbour described Ms Rhodes as a “lovely person”. A dedicated midwife, Ms Rhodes would “talk so positively about her profession”, the neighbour said.
“Her children really enjoyed it over there. They were fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. They were a really happy couple, always so positive. It is a great shame they have to go through this now.”
In a GoFundMe page set up to support the family, friend Jayne Jeje wrote: “On August 5, 2022, Helen passed away in her sleep on her flight from HK to UK. Helen was found unresponsive a few hours into the flight.
“Despite all efforts, Helen was not able to be resuscitated. This all unfolded in front of her children. For the remaining 8 hours of the flight, Helen lay in a breathless sleep in her seat.
“Although this was extremely traumatizing to the family, they all had time to say what they needed to say to her.”
Describing Ms Rhodes, Ms Jeje added: “Helen was sharp and creative. She ran her own business making amazing bespoke bows and accessories. Helen took pride in everything she did, and her bows were exquisite.”
While living in Hong Kong’s Tung Chung area, Ms Rhodes was known as the “pulse of her community” and would be stopped on the street by all the people she knew.
She became an invaluable member of a local motherhood group in the district and members’ point of reference for anything medical related, Ms Jeje said.