A BRITISH father-of-two dropped dead at a Spanish airport just minutes after sending a loving text to his fiancee.
Paul Birchall, 51, had texted partner of six years Andrea Houseman, 47, to say he had arrived safely as he touched down on Ibiza’s San Jose International Airport.
But as he reached passport control, Birchall – who was joining a stag do – was taken ill after suffering a blood clot in his leg during the Jet 2 flight from Manchester.
Attempts were made by friends and a doctor who had been on board the flight to resuscitate the father of two but he was pronounced dead shortly after his sudden collapse on June 15 this year.
Doctors in Spain initially believed Birchall, from Bolton, had succumbed to ‘Economy Class Syndrome’ – a phenomena associated with long-haul flights where passengers suffer thrombotic events due to the increased pressure of air cabins.
But during an inquest this week, a UK Home Office Pathologist ruled out the possibility, claiming his death could have come at any time regardless of the three-hour flight.
Dr Patrick Waugh revealed that Paul had died from a sudden blockage in the lungs known as a Pulmonary Embolism which was caused by deep vein thrombosis.
He said: “This is a common condition where you develop a blood clot in your leg and that block travels all the way up to your heart and gets stuck in your lungs which obstructs blood getting to your lungs and causes you to collapse.
“In cases where clots are affected by flying, it tends to happen in long haul flights of around nine to twelve hours – this flight was no longer than three hours. He was already feeling unwell in the flight meaning that the clot had already formed.
“I feel it is unlikely the flight is what caused the clot.
“Paul also appeared to have narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart which can cause a heart attack. In his position, if he has a clot in his leg and is struggling to breathe already and has narrowing to his heart that isn’t good.”
Friend Sean Hines told the inquest: “We had all agreed to meet at a public house and we got a minibus to the airport. Paul arrived late as always and so probably only had time for one pint before we left.
“He just said that he had heartburn and that was it and he went and brought some ‘Rennie’s.’ He wasn’t drinking heavily at all and he slept for most of the flight but did continue to complain of feeling unwell.
“We got to passport control and I just saw Paul fall to the floor. There was a soldier and a medic nearby and a doctor who got off the plane also tried to assist. It took about 30 minutes for the paramedics to arrive but there were people trying to perform CPR.”
Paul’s sister, Vivienne Birchall, told the hearing: “Paul was one of five children and we were a very close family. He was a grafter and someone who worked hard. He had been previously married and had two children but got divorced in 2013.
“At the time of his death he had been engaged to Angela and they both liked to go on holiday to the Mediterranean. He was a social drinker and on the 15th of June was flying to Ibiza on a stag party.
“He had felt a bit unwell before the holiday but he isn’t one for suffering. It was an afternoon flight and he had two or three pints at the airport – he wasn’t drinking as heavily as his friends. His death came as a complete shock to us. There were over 300 people at his funeral.”
Coroner’s officer Zena Hartingdon said: “Paul had been an air passenger travelling from the UK to Ibiza and died on his arrival into San Jose international airport. He was travelling with friends on a stag party and had complained of heartburn and taken some medication.
“On arrival he collapsed and was declared deceased at the airport. There was no medical history or any health problems the family felt needed to be bought to our attention.”
Authorities at the airport said there was ‘commotion’ and ‘chaos’ in the arrival area of the European Union.
They described a number of disturbed passengers and a man lying face up with people crowded around him. They commented that he appeared purple in colour.
Recording a conclusion of death by natural causes, Coroner Timothy Brennand said: “I find the medical cause of death as Pulmonary Embolism. Paul died on the 15th of June 2017 in Ibiza Airport.
“He had a history of muscular skeletal chest pain in 2016 and in the days prior to his trip abroad the deceased had been complaining of chest pain for which he was self-medicating.
“On the 15th of June he was an air passenger and on arrival to the airport having been complaining of feeling unwell suffered a sudden collapse. Despite immediate resuscitation and medical intervention he died.
“I make clear this clearly isn’t a case that has anything do with ‘Economy Class Syndrome’ or the fact that he was on a stag party. Paul seemed like a decent, hardworking and popular individual and the fact that 300 people attended his funeral is evidence of that.”
Birchall’s family said in a statement: “We miss Paul and just wish that he could come back, we will never get over it.
“At 6.15pm when he landed in Ibiza he texted Andrea to tell her that he loved her. He was so excited about the trip, he loved a party. If we knew he was ill we would never have let him go on that stag party. It is just such a sad story.”
Birchall leaves behind his daughter Jamie, 26, and son Christopher, 24, as well as his mother Eileen Birchall, 72.
He was the oldest of four siblings, including Vivienne, Julie Birchall, Michael Birchall and Sandra Birchall.