A Thai Lion Air B737-900 performing flight SL8537, from Hat Yai (Thailand) to Bangkok Don Mueang Intl. Airport, with 152 passengers on board, was forced to return to Hat Yai after the First Officer lost consciousness 20 minutes after takeoff.
The flight had departed from Hat Yai at 12:15PM and was 20 minutes into the flight when First Officer Peter Esberte collapsed. Director of Operations of the airline, Capt. Worawut Kongkositkul confirmed that the 47-year-old Dutch pilot died while he was being taken from the airport to a hospital.
Mr Worawut said Peter joined the low-cost airline at its launch last year and was healthy with no record of health problems. His latest medical check-up in February and March showed no signs of problems.
After Peter collapsed, the Captain declared an emergency and turned back towards Hat Yai airport, landing safely at 1:21PM.
Aeronautical Radio of Thailand confirmed that Peter died of a heart attack on the airplane.