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09th Aug 2022

Mum dies in sleep in front of children and husband on flight back to UK

April Curtin

She was found unresponsive just a few hours into the flight

A mum-of-two has tragically died in front of her kids and husband on a flight from China to the UK.

Helen Rhodes passed away in her sleep during the journey from Hong Kong on August 5. She had lived in the city for 15 years and was hoping to return to the UK for the first time since before the covid-19 pandemic.

Writing on a GoFundMe page, Helen’s friend Jayne Jeje said the mum was found unresponsive just a few hours into the flight.

Jeje said that, for the remaining eight hours of the journey, the “devoted wife and mother” 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,” Jeje wrote.

The flight landed in Germany and Helen’s body remains in Frankfurt. Her husband and two kids, Nathan and Emma, “had to go on to the UK without her,” Jeje added.

Helen was a midwife but also ran her own business crafting bespoke accessories, according to the fundraiser. She was also a member of a tight-knit mums group in Hong Kong, and over 200 women would come to her for medical advice.

“She was the pulse of her community” in Tung Chung, Jeje wrote, “she couldn’t walk a few feet and not run into someone she knew by name.”

A fundraiser created to support Helen’s family has already raised over £20,000 in just two days.

Posting on the page, one donator said: “RIP Helen, I remember your infectious energy and lovely, chatty smiling face.”

On Facebook, a resident of Tung Chung described Helen as “the most caring, generous and thoughtful person”, despite only knowing her from the “school gates”.

“Live life to the fullest folks, and hugs the ones you love,” commenter Andrew Spires wrote.

“If anyone needed a helping hand Helen was always at the front of the queue,” another person said.

Responding to The Guardian, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British woman who died on a flight to Frankfurt and are in contact with the local authorities.”

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