Memorial set for 16-year-old who died on flight from Seattle

Zachary Bisiar had been airborne for only about 30 minutes when the 16-year-old’s lips started turning blue.

Zachary and members of his family were traveling from Seattle to Atlanta on a Delta flight on Dec. 7 to visit family when the boy, who suffered from cerebral palsy, suddenly stopped breathing.

For family members who were expecting to reunite with Zachary over the holidays, the death came as a shock.

“It was very out of the blue,” said his uncle Steven Leahy, 40, of Sugar Hill, Ga. “It’s really hard. ... We have family all over the country and for all of us it’s very devastating. He was my favorite nephew.”

Leahy said he expects about 100 people at Zachary’s service on Dec. 22 in Buford, Ga. To help his sister and her husband cope with the financial burdens of the funeral, Leahy created a Go Fund Me page. Donated proceeds will go toward “laying [Zachary] to rest and aiding the family with the difficult time they are having now with the loss of their child,” the page states.


As of Friday afternoon, $1,425 of the $10,000 fund-raising goal had been reached.

“I decided if people are willing to help out, then the best way to help out would be to help my sister and her husband, because they are enduring a tragic loss and the high costs,” Leahy said.

Shortly after the flight departed from Seattle at 8:25 a.m., Toni Ronaldo, Zachary’s mother, noticed her son was upset, difficult to control and undergoing what seemed like a seizure, Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer told the Los Angeles Times.

He said Ronaldo moved her son to the back of the plane near the flight crew, where flight attendants requested help from any passengers with medical experience.

A physician and nurse went to Zachary’s aid while the pilot followed protocol and found the next closest location to land: Spokane, about 300 miles east of Seattle.

Delta spokesman Michael Thomas told The Times that the flight, which touched down in Spokane at 10:20 a.m., had been scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 4 p.m.

There were 258 passengers aboard the Boeing 767, Thomas said.

Schaeffer said the Spokane Fire Department was immediately notified about an “an inbound aircraft with an emergency.” The moment the plane reached the airport gate, he said a team of paramedics rushed in to assist the patient.

At that point, everybody’s emotional level had increased,” he said. “Passengers knew something was going on, they knew it was bad, but they didn’t realize it was a young man in cardiac arrest.”

But it was too late — at 10:45 a.m., Zachary was pronounced dead.

“We worked on him for a long time … but his body didn’t respond to any of the therapies, which are very aggressive, that our paramedics were introducing,” Schaeffer said. “You really don’t expect a 16-year-old to fall victim to cardiac arrest — it’s not a normal occurrence on the streets of Spokane.”

Schaeffer said paramedics and airport staff stayed with the family until the coroner’s arrival.

According to a news release from the Spokane County Coroner’s office, issued on Dec. 9, the cause of death is “pending, further microscopic and other studies.”

However, the coroner determined Zachary’s death was natural, “thought to be a rare complication of a rare disease process.”

Leahy said Zachary was “full of life.” In his free time, he loved listening to Taylor Swift, swimming, rollerskating and watching Notre Dame football games with his family.

“Everyone who came into contact with him loved him,” he said. “He was a great kid and will truly be missed.”


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