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Medical problem diverts LA-bound flight; passengers held overnight in Texas

A medical emergency prompted a flight from Orlando to LAX to be diverted late Sunday to Texas, and the flight was canceled after a maintenance issue was discovered after landing.

United flight 1742 landed safely at the Midland International Airport at 9:20 p.m. Central time on Sunday.

This story was first reported by NBCLA.com.

Firefighters responded to a 49-year-old man who was unconscious and unresponsive. He was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition on Monday, hospital officials said.

Passengers witnessed the attempts to revive the man both in the air and on the ground.

“There were a lot of children involved, a lot of crying,” said Alice Martinez, a nurse who tried to resuscitate the unresponsive passenger on board.

Flying with her own 6-year-old, Martinez said the ordeal was “pretty scary.”

“We were not wearing any seatbelts or anything as we were landing,” she said.

The 151 passengers who were aboard the flight were housed in a “quiet terminal” overnight because there were no available hotel rooms in the immediate area, United said in a statement.

They took a rescheduled flight out of Texas and arrived in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.

Airline officials said that the passengers were held for 45 minutes on the plane before being allowed into the terminal.

“Due to hotel unavailability in Midland, the customers remained overnight in a quiet section of the terminal,”said Christen David, a United spokeswoman in a statement. “We provided our customers with meals, beverages, pillows and blankets."

Still, many passengers said the airline should have done more, such as offer them a place to "wash up, to sleep, to rest."

A new flight from Midland departed for LAX just before 11 a.m., a passenger told NBC4.

Details about the maintenance issue on the Boeing 737 were not immediately available and the circumstances surrounding the illness were not immediately known.

“After landing, we discovered an aircraft maintenance issue and we were forced to cancel the flight,” David said in the statement.

Passenger Renee Shropshire said about three hours into the flight she saw the flight crew rush to the back of the plane and try to resuscitate a man in the 32nd row.

Minutes later, the captain announced he was making an emergency landing. Ten minutes after that, they landed safely.

“It frightened everyone,” said Shropshire, who was returning home to LA from after a Caribbean cruise with her family. “But we all were very cool about it. No one panicked, thank God.”

Once they landed, paramedics came aboard and tried to revive the man, but there was no response, she said.

Passengers, meanwhile, were furious at the way they were treated by the airline and airport officials.

Alison Quinlivan, of Tustin, was on the flight with her husband and her kids, ages 6 and 7, including one who is autistic.

She said that once the plane landed in Midland, they heard an announcement about a mechanical issue involving a leaky brake line. She said that officials knew about the mechanical issue in Orlando, but announced then that they didn’t think it would be a problem.

Once on the ground, she said, some passengers read officials a section of the Passenger’s Bill of Rights governing stranded flights.

“They said there was no lodging because this is Midland and there are no hotels, no availability,” she said in a phone interview with NBC4. “They said, ‘Where did we expect them to get food for us at that time of night in a tiny town that’s just the oil workers?”

She said her husband suggested the town had to have a 24-hour pizza parlour and two hours later 60 pizzas were delivered.

“My husband had to go and remind them that we needed drinks,” Quinlivan said. "And then he said how about blankets and pillows. They said, 'How long do you want to make the list of your demands?'"

“Over six hours with children -- no drinks, no food and no announcements.”

United gave them $75 vouchers toward their next flight, Quinlivan said. Passengers were given $10 vouchers for breakfast, Quinlivan said.

NBCLA.com is operated by KNBC, NBC News' station in Southern California.