Kids 'Devastated' After Their 'Devoted' Mom Dies in Her Sleep on Flight: 'This Loss Is Unimaginable'

·2 min read

A mother traveling to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong with her husband and two young children died "in her sleep" during the flight, friends say.

According to a GoFundMe campaign, Helen Rhodes, a midwife, was found unresponsive during the flight and was unable to be resuscitated. Rhodes' body remained in her seat next to the family until the plane landed in Germany.

"This all unfolded in front of her children," Jayne Jeje, a friend of Rhodes, said on the campaign page. "For the remaining 8 hours of the flight, Helen lay in a breathless sleep in her seat. Although this was extremely traumatizing to the family, they all had time to say what they needed to say to her. Needless to mention, they are devastated. This loss is unimaginable. Helen was a devoted wife and mother. She was the glue that held her family together."

After landing in Germany, Rhodes' body was kept in Frankfurt while her husband, Simon, and children, Nathan and Emma, continued their trip to the United Kingdom.

Rhodes — who was 46 years old, per the Independent — was moving back to the United Kingdom after nearly two decades in Hong Kong, Jeje said in a description on the donation page.

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helen rhodes
helen rhodes


"Helen was excited and nervous about the move, but looked forward to seeing her family back home, as she had not seen her family or aging parents since the pandemic began," Jeje wrote. "Sadly, she never got to see them again."

PEOPLE has reached out to the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office for comment.

In a statement to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the agency said they are "supporting the family of a British woman who died on a flight to Frankfurt and are in contact with the local authorities." They repeated the statement to Insider.

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In a post on Facebook, Andrew Spires, who knew Rhodes in the Tung Chung community in Hong Kong where they lived, remembered her as "the most caring, generous and thoughtful person."

"Tung Chung and school pick-up won't be the same without you," he wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign has raised just over $29,000 to support Rhodes' family.

"We can only hope she knew how much she meant to us, and how her void can never be filled," Jeje wrote. "How this loss is so painful and surreal. The grief we feel is paralyzing. Yet, we feel lucky to have known her."