A British mother-of-two “died in her sleep” in front of her children while flying back to the UK, a friend has said.
Helen Rhodes, a midwife, had been returning home, after more than 15 years in Hong Kong, when the tragedy happened.
Several hours into the long-haul flight, Ms Rhodes became “unresponsive” and was unable to be resuscitated, said friend Jayne Jeje.
“This all unfolded in front of her children,” she said on a GoFundMe page for Ms Rhodes’s bereaved family.
“For the remaining 8 hours of the flight, Helen lay in a breathless sleep in her seat.
“Although this was extremely traumatising to the family, they all had time to say what they needed to say to her. Needless to mention, they are devastated. This loss is unimaginable.”
Because of protocol, Ms Rhodes’s body remained in Frankfurt when the plane landed while her husband Simon and their two children returned to the UK.
“Helen and her family wrapped up a life in Hong Kong of over 15 years to embark on a new chapter living back home in the UK,” said Ms Jeje.
“Helen was excited and nervous about the move, but looked forward to seeing her family back home, as she had not seen her family or aging parents since the pandemic began.
“Sadly, she never got to see them again.”
Helen lived in the Tung Chung area of Hong Kong, where she belonged to a close-knit group called Tung Chung Mums, and also ran her own business crafting bespoke accessories.
“Helen always made herself available to help others. She was clever, witty and generous with her time,” said Ms Jeje.
More than £20,000 has been raised for the family, which will go towards paying funeral costs, and for support for her children.
Among those donating was Ken Chu, who said he was one of the crew on the flight. “I wish the best for you and your kids,” he said.
Another donor, Rachael Guan, said: “I am so sorry to hear this sad, sad news. I didn’t know Helen well but lived in Tung Chung.
“I could tell she was a kind-hearted person, and so proud of her kids. I am thinking of you all.”