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Port of Oakland Honors HERO PASSENGERS at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport

Port of Oakland Honors HERO PASSENGERS at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport

Press Releases
May 18th, 2017

Commissioners Recognize Citizens Who Rescued Fellow Traveler during Heart Attack at OAK

Oakland, CA: (May 18, 2017) – With all of the recent media attention on issues surrounding airlines and their passengers, San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport is where Southwest Airlines passengers saved the life of a traveler after seeing him collapse in front of Terminal 2 while having a heart attack.

Today, Commissioners at the Port of Oakland, which owns and operates the Airport, along with Executives from Southwest Airlines, the Alameda County Sherriff’s Department, and Oakland Fire Department, will recognize the individuals involved with the curbside rescue of Steve Kirschner.

Kirschner and his wife, Susan, were Southwest passengers leaving from San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport to visit Steve’s 99-year-old mother in Washington State on February 27th, when Steve began to feel ill. The couple decided to cancel their flight and leave to seek medical attention.  Once outside on the Terminal 2 curbside, Steve collapsed in the midst of a heart attack.

By chance, four gentlemen who work together at Kaiser Permanente's Walnut Creek Medical Center saw the incident unfolding, and acted immediately with CPR. Airport medical personnel arrived minutes later and activated a defibrillator located inside the terminal. “I was extremely lucky,” said Kirschner. “These individuals came by exactly when they were needed, and knew exactly what to do. It was marvelous, and I’m just very grateful that they were there.”

“In general, it would be great for the public to be trained with at least basic CPR. At a minimum, what we did saved this man’s life,” said Armil Vertudez, one of the four citizen responders and manager of the Gastroenterology Department where the other responders all work together. “If the general public knew things as simple as chest compressions and keeping an airway open, a life can be saved. Having a defibrillator, however, made all of the difference in this case.  We got into this field just to help people.”

During today’s Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Kirschner will be reunited for the first time with the four men who stepped in to save his life, as well as with the Emergency Responders and Airport personnel who acted to defibrillate and transport, all of which resulted in Mr. Kirschner surviving the incident.

The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners will recognize the Heroes and Airport staff involved in the rescue during their Board Meeting, with details as follows:

Date: Thursday, May 18

Time: Reunion of Kirschners and Heroes – 2:30PM (Port of Oakland Lobby)

Board Meeting with Recognition of Heroes 3:00 PM (SHARP)

Location: Port of Oakland Board Room

530 Water Street – 2nd Floor

Oakland, California

The Oakland Fire Department and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department work together at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport to provide response and emergency services. After the incident, first responder and Oakland Fire Department Captain Brian Oftedal emphasized the importance of citizen response, as well as general emergency response training for life-saving activities such as CPR and use of AED (Automated External Defibrillator) devices.

Tomorrow, Steve and Susan Kirschner will resume their plans to visit Steve’s mother, departing from Oakland International, of course.


Oakland International is the fourth busiest airport in California and second busiest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Serving over 12 million travelers annually, OAK is the closest airport to the region’s top business and tourism venues. It is also the closest airport for most local residents.

Oakland’s air service roster to over 60 destinations is scheduled on 13 different airline brands – seven of which operate with OAK as their sole gateway into the San Francisco Bay region.

The vision of San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport is to offer customers a world-class experience and be the airport of choice for Bay Area residents and visitors alike. OAK is operated by The Port of Oakland, which also oversees the Oakland seaport and 20 miles of waterfront. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region and nearly 827,000 jobs across the United States.

For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps, and details on shopping, dining, transportation, and more, visit www.oaklandairport.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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