Fact check: Delta debunks rumor that vaccinated pilot died mid-flight

The claim: A vaccinated Delta pilot died mid-flight

After Southwest canceled thousands of flights over the weekend, social media users spread a false rumor that the delays were due to a pilot protest over the company's vaccine mandate. Now, one of the airline's competitors has become a target of misinformation.

"Sources: VAXXED Delta Pilot DIES IN-FLIGHT, Emergency Landing Required," reads text in a video posted Oct. 12 on Instagram.

The clip, viewed more than 1,800 times in a day, comes from an Oct. 11 episode of the conservative "Stew Peters Show." In it, a self-described "new right political pundit" named Jane Ruby cited "three separate whistleblowers" to support the Delta pilot claim.

"A pilot died in flight within the last, I'd say, 10 days, according to these sources," she said during the video, which racked up more than 340,000 views on Rumble within two days. "The flight had to make an emergency landing. We are now learning this is an LAX-based captain."

Ruby, who has falsely claimed the COVID-19 vaccines are magnetic, made it seem like the shot was to blame for the pilot's death. But the tale doesn't hold water.

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Delta told USA TODAY the rumor is baseless, and the Federal Aviation Administration said there's no evidence the incident described in the video occurred. The coronavirus vaccines do not cause death.

USA TODAY reached out to Peters, Ruby and the Instagram user who shared her claim for comment.

Delta says no pilot died

As other independent fact-checking outlets have noted, there is no evidence a vaccinated Delta pilot recently died mid-flight. The airline says this didn't happen.

“Delta is aware of reports suggesting one of the airline’s pilots passed away from vaccine complications while operating a flight, resulting in an emergency landing," Morgan Durrant, a spokesperson for Delta, told USA TODAY in an email. "All of these allegations are false."

A Delta Air Lines plane lands near a COVID-19 testing sign at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 25, 2021.
A Delta Air Lines plane lands near a COVID-19 testing sign at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 25, 2021.

Maria Njoku, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email the agency "has found no evidence such an event occurred." USA TODAY could find no media reports or other evidence to substantiate Ruby's claim.

All three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the U.S. have been found to be safe and effective at preventing serious COVID-19 cases. The shots do not cause death, as USA TODAY has previously reported.

"Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website. "A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines."

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that a vaccinated Delta pilot died mid-flight FALSE. The airline says this didn't happen, and the FAA said it hasn't seen any evidence the incident occurred. The coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19 cases – they do not cause death.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Vaccinated Delta pilot didn't die mid-flight