WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The world champion Fiji sevens rugby team has been praised after stepping in to assist cabin crew during a medical emergency on a flight from Fiji to Brisbane on Thursday.
When an elderly female passenger was taken ill, England-born team coach Ben Ryan and team doctor Emosi Taloga immediately provided medical assistance.
Cabin crew had started lunch service when the emergency occurred, but were forced to stop while the passenger was attended to. The Fiji players, without being asked, rose to continue serving lunch to passengers, then moved through the cabin to retrieve trays and rubbish when the meal had been completed, team co-manager Paula Bio told the Associated Press.
One player assisted cabin crew by holding an oxygen mask to the face of the ailing passenger for more than an hour.
"It shows the humble side of the Fijian people when those kind of unexpected situations occur anywhere," Bio said. "It's the image of the Fiji players and also our beloved Fiji."
A passenger aboard the Virgin Australia
A passenger aboard the Virgin Australia flight, Ryan Fee, told Australia's News Corp. the actions of the Fiji players had been a "fantastic bit of team work."
"When the air hostesses were all flustered the team got up to finish serving food and then assisted with the cleanup of trays for the entire plane," Fee said.
The Fiji team was heading to Brisbane on its way to Dubai for the first round of the World Sevens circuit.
The passenger who was taken ill has since recovered and was resting at home.
The team and Fiji Rugby Union social media pages were flooded with praise for the players' conduct. Their actions were described as "a great illustration of rugby culture" and the team was hailed as great ambassadors for rugby and Fiji. Post said the team's humility and consideration contrasted with an image of professional sportsmen as arrogant and entitled.
Ryan, a former England sevens coach who has coached Fiji since 2013, expressed admiration for his players' spontaneous decision to assist cabin crew in an emergency.
"This bunch constantly makes me proud," he said.
Fiji is currently the top-ranked team in world sevens and among the favorites to win the gold medal when rugby sevens becomes an Olympic sport at Rio next year.