The Air Force dispatched a large medical transport plane to Brazil to return Rep. Norman Sisisky (D-Va.) and his wife to Virginia after she fell and broke her pelvis during a congressional trip to Latin America.
The plane, a C141B Starlifter that is designed to carry 113 patients, landed at Richmond International Airport Saturday. Sisisky and his wife Rhoda were the only passengers to deplane, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which disclosed the flight yesterday.
Sisisky, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the newspaper that he did not know why the Air Force sent such a large plane for only two passengers. He said that his wife had been in considerable pain and had to be transported on a stretcher.
An Air Force spokesman said yesterday it sent the plane after it was contacted by a physician traveling with the congressional group. The spokesman said the C141 was dispatched because the plane was in Panama on a training mission and was about to return to its Charleston, S.C., base.
The Air Force also decided that a medical transport plane was needed because of the stretcher. "They were coming back anyway," said Maj. Michael Perini, "and it was good training to have a patient to take care of."
He said the Air Force estimated that the cost of the additional trip to Brazil was $2,146. Sisisky will not be billed for the costs, because the plane was on the way to the United States, Perini said.
Sisisky and his wife were part of a 14-member bipartisan House delegation that is touring four countries and is headed by House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).
The accident occurred in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia on the first day of the trip. "I was meeting with the president of Brazil at the time" that his wife fell while touring the Congress Building, Sisisky told the Times-Dispatch.
He said his wife suffered a hairline fracture of the pelvis, and had hoped to keep news of her accident quiet. She is recuperating in a Richmond hospital and is learning to use a walker. He estimated her complete recovery could take three months.