POSTED: 4:19 a.m. HST, Jun 30, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:13 p.m. HST, Jun 30, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. >> All Jeff Ellis could do was wait as he sat terrified 30,000 feet in the air staring at the wriggling scorpion that stung him on a flight to Alaska.
He repeated to himself that a doctor said he'd be fine — probably.
Ellis, of Portland, Ore., first had to wait 30 minutes to see whether he succumbed to anaphylactic shock.
"In the movies, scorpions kill people," Ellis, 55, said Thursday. "I was just nervous, on edge, making sure that my heart was beating normal, that I wasn't sweating."
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the scorpion probably crawled on board the plane during a stop in Austin, Texas. The plane then landed in Seattle, where Ellis boarded for a flight to Anchorage.
About three hours into the flight, Ellis dozed off. Then, he felt something tickling his arm.
"I felt it on my shirt-sleeve and brushed it off, I thought it was a little spider or something," Ellis said. "Then I felt it back on my elbow."
Just after that, Eliis felt a sting. He grabbed it with his napkin and his girlfriend, Suzanne Foster, called a flight attendant, who tossed the scorpion into a clear plastic bag.
The writhing arachnid terrified children seated nearby.
"Their mother told the flight attendant, 'Get that thing out of my face,' " Ellis said.
As Ellis monitored himself for signs of a fatal allergic reaction, emergency responders in Anchorage were told to get ready; the flight would be landing soon.
But they had a problem, Ellis said: Scorpions aren't common in Alaska, and the EMTs didn't know what to do.
"They had to Google it," he said.
News traveled quickly through the cabin, but Ellis said no one panicked. He was the first to get off the plane, he said, where he was met by a police officer.
In the end, it turned out that the doctor on the flight was right. Ellis was OK, and all that's left of the incident is a mark on his arm.
Egan said the airline has never had a poisonous creature on one of its flights before, but it wasn't the first time someone found a scorpion on a plane.
During a Southwest Airlines flight in 2009, an Arizona man was stung while traveling from Phoenix to Indianapolis. His 10-year-old son found the rest of the family of scorpions in the luggage compartment over their seats.
Ellis thinks — based on photos he took of the eight-legged pest — that he was stung by a striped bark scorpion, which is common in Texas.
He said he is happy with the flight crew's response, and said the airline has offered him 4,000 frequent-flier miles and two round-trip tickets.
His return flight to Seattle, he said, was uneventful.