Happy landing for baby born in Northern Ireland by mistake after jet diverted here when mum went into labour mid-air
Jet diverted here after mum went into labour in mid-air
A mother who gave birth to a baby girl in Northern Ireland after going into labour in mid-air has spoken of how she was "determined to remain calm" as the passenger plane was forced to make an emergency landing.
Couple Rabih and Nicole Ghafari have given her an Irish middle name in in honour of their baby's unscheduled birthplace.
Mrs Ghafari was on an Air France flight to Detroit from Paris with her husband, three-year-old twin girls and son (2) on March 6.
An hour into the flight Nicole – 34 weeks pregnant – went into premature labour.
The captain diverted to Belfast International Airport and mum and family were rushed to Antrim Area Hospital. Within an hour of arriving in Northern Ireland, little Nicole Riona was born weighing 5lbs 7oz.
The couple, who praised the air crew, ambulance crew and medical team at Antrim Area Hospital, called her their "blessing".
Little Nicole stayed in hospital for a number of days for observation but was then discharged.
Mum Nicole said: "We did a bit of research and just thought Riona was lovely for a middle name. I think it means 'queenly'. It is just a reminder of where she was born."
Speaking about the moment she went into labour, the 38-year-old said she just tried to stay calm.
"I didn't want to panic anyone on the plane," she said. "My husband was just fantastic. I just kept thinking she wasn't supposed to be born then. Once we went into the flight everything just started."
The aircraft was about 250 miles off the Irish coast. She added: "I can't remember who came up to me, whether it was the captain or another member of staff, but they told me we'd be landing in 30-40 minutes."
The couple, who run an architectural firm split, their time between Qatar and Detroit – and had never visited Northern Ireland.
Rabih (31) was delighted things worked out. "The support staff on Air France were just top notch. Each one became an extension of the family," he said. "They were helping with the kids, trying to make sure my wife was cared for. They really made the call right, because literally one hour after landing my wife delivered our baby girl – so hats off to Air France."
The couple received support from Tiny Life, which also helped the family find accommodation.
Caitlin Reid of Tiny Life, which supports families with premature babies, said: "Premature births present difficulties to all families but this situation was particularly complicated. The expertise and care given to the family at Antrim Area Hospital made this happy ending possible."
Nicole, who flew home to Detroit yesterday, added: "Everyone was just so kind. We are blessed, truly. And we will be back when Nicole is older to show her where she was born.
"We feel we have made many friends in Northern Ireland."
On March 6 medical crews rushed to Belfast International when the Air France plane from Paris to Detroit landed at about 4.15pm. It was about 250 miles off the Irish coast when the alarm was raised Nicole had gone into labour. The plane's captain launched emergency procedures and contacted staff at Aldergrove. Nicole Riona Ghafari was born an hour after it landed.