Bystander apathy 2.0

Of course, we all use this in when we teach bystander apathy with this classical case:

Now, a more contemporary case, different time, different circumstances, same effect:

“The passengers queuing for British Airways flight 77 from Heathrow comprised the clientele that might be expected to board a flight bound for a mineral-rich African country.

Many of those waiting at Terminal 5’s Gate A18 at 7.40pm on Tuesday night were expatriates – including British, Canadian and American engineers heading out to work in Angola’s lucrative oil fields.

Only one passenger, Jimmy Mubenga, was dreading his arrival at Luanda airport.

Within 50 minutes, his muscular 6ft body would be laid out along an aisle at the rear of the plane, seemingly lifeless, as the aircraft was diverted from the runway and returned to the stand, where paramedics were waiting.

Mubenga’s last 50 minutes alive were tonight under investigation by detectives from Scotland Yard’s homicide squad. The death of the Angolan father of five while he was being deported, after losing a legal appeal to remain in the UK in August, is being treated as unexplained.”

Except it does not seem like it is unexplained. The man did not want to be deported. His guards decided to restrain him. He complained about not being able to breathe for 10 minutes and then died, in front of the passengers. None of them did anything as the guards were putting him in a position that killed him.

,,Passengers who entered the aircraft around 7.40pm were met with the sight of four brawling men – some presumed the guards were police or air marshalls. They then described seeing the guards “on top” of Mubenga, forcing him on to or under his seat for anything between 10 and 45 minutes.

Ben, a 29-year-old engineer, saw one guard reach for his handcuffs to restrain Mubenga. Michael, standing nearby, said: “The first thing I saw was the stewardesses running forward. One of them was almost in spasms she was shaking that bad … I saw three men trying to pull [Mubenga] down below the seats. All I could see was his head sticking up above the seats and he was hollering out: ‘Help me’.”

Passengers were moved away from the rear of the aircraft, and into first class. “You could hear the guy [Mubenga] screaming at the back of the plane,” said Ben. “He was saying: ‘They are going to kill me’.”

BA stewards are understood to have moved two women sitting in the row of seats adjacent to those occupied by Mubenga and the guards.

The vacated seats were taken up by Kevin Wallis, a 58-year-old engineer, who claims to have had a full view of the ensuing confrontation just a few feet away.

As Mubenga resisted, Wallis heard one guard say: “He’ll be alright once we get him in the air.” It was around this time – 7.50pm – that Wallis took at call from his wife at his home in North Yorkshire, who said the commotion in the background “sounds really nasty”.

Wallis told his wife it was a deportation, and put the phone down. Wallis said he listened to Mubenga repeatedly complain that he was unable to breathe “for 10 minutes, at least” before he went silent.

“They [the guards] checked his neck pulse and his wrist pulse,” said Wallis. “That is when they looked a bit worried.”

Andrew, a 44-year-old from Eastern Europe sitting in row 28, recalled seeing two men pushing down on Mubenga, who was consistently calling for help. Andrew heard cries of “don’t do this” and “they are trying to kill me”. He added: “In the beginning his voice was strong and loud, but with the time passing by the voice was losing its strength.”

Michael had a similar account, recalling Mubenga was saying “help me, help me” while three security guards were on top of him. “And then it went kind of quiet,” he said. “The last thing we heard the man say was he couldn’t breathe.”

It is unclear how much of this information was being conveyed to the cockpit. Some time after 8pm, the pilot commanding BA flight 77 headed for the runway. But his aircraft would never get into the air.

At 8.25pm, police and paramedics were called to a man unwell on the aircraft, which was returned to the terminal.

The Guardian’s four witnesses did not recall a PA announcement asking if a doctor was on board.

“They left him in his seat until the paramedics came,” said Wallis.

“I’m not sure he got any attention from anybody until the medics got there and that was 15, 20 minutes after everything went quiet,” added Michael.

“Maybe somebody could have revived him if they had been asked. I can give CPR.””

Note that these witnesses all thought what was happening was nasty and brutal but none actually said anything. The offer of potential CPR is only once there is no longer any risk to involvement. One of the reasons for bystander apathy is often the idea that situations are ambiguous and not clear and therefore people do not intervene because they think that they might lose face in case of wrong interpretation of the situation. But note my emphasis. At least one of the witnesses correctly interpreted the situation (also, because the victim was screaming about not wanting to go home, which kinda disambiguate the situation).

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    Wat dan wel weer apart is, het filmpje begint in de jaren zestig met die moord, en kabbelt in dezelfde jaren zestig stijl en met dezelfde commentaarstem voort. En toch haalt de zwarte dame op het eind duidelijk een mobiele telefoon tevoorschijn… Ergens heb ik een overgang gemist geloof ik :-)