Passengers on a flight from Seattle to Dallas were turned around for an unusual reason over the weekend - a human heart was left on board.
Gottschalk said the horror began to sink in when those with internet began searching the internet and found that a heart would last only hours to be viable for transplant.
The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.
He said the carrier made the decision to head back because it was "absolutely necessary to deliver the shipment to its destination in the Seattle area as quickly as possible".
However, no Seattle-area hospitals said they were involved.
Apparently, someone had forgotten to unload a human heart, The Seattle Times reports.
A passenger on the flight told the Times that his fellow passengers were initially stunned by the news.
The airline didn't say how long the plane had been in the air when the organ was discovered.
Katherine Pliska, a spokeswoman for LifeCenter Northwest, the organization that facilitates the transfer of organs for transplants in Washington and California, confirmed that it did not use commercial flights to deliver hearts for transplants. That is a small amount of their business, however, with the Dallas Business Journal reporting that it accounts for less than 1% of Southwest's revenue.
Gottschalk described the incident as a "horrific story of gross negligence".
But the turnaround wasn't the only delay for the flight An unrelated mechanical concern when the plane landed back at Sea-Tac caused a five-hour delay for the passengers bound for Dallas' Love Field, WFAA reported.
"The heart in question traveled from California to Washington, to the other side of Idaho, and back to Washington", he told the Times.