The body of retired Army Lt. Col Norman Easy, who died on a flight to China, will be returned to his family on Saturday, and an autopsy likely will precede a private funeral, his widow said on Thursday.
“He was not only a civilian person, he was a military person, so we are just trying to make sure everything is done right for him,” said Nixtia Easy, of Freeport.
“Right now, we are just concentrating on his being home and trying to figure out how we — we will have to pay out of pocket for the autopsy, it’s $5,000,” she said.
Easy, 57, was a decorated Army National Guardsman who served two tours in Iraq and as deputy commander of the Harlem-based 369th Sustainment Brigade. For the past eight years, he was a procurement executive at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.
“We were saddened to learn of the untimely passing of our friend and colleague, Norman Easy," his company, Siemens Healthineers, said Thursday in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. The company has supported the Easy family in efforts to bring Mr. Easy home as soon as possible, including engaging experts in repatriation who are leading the effort.”
On Dec. 7, Easy boarded a China Eastern Airlines flight from Kennedy Airport to Shanghai to close a deal for Siemens. It appears Easy, who had a physical only weeks earlier, died midflight, said his oldest son, Marcus Easy, 28.
His family has struggled for weeks to obtain answers from the airline and the Chinese consulate, which has provided them with conflicting accounts of Easy’s death.
In a statement Wednesday, the airline said the Army veteran “was found unconscious in his seat before the flight arrived in Shanghai. The crew and doctors worked hard to rescue him but failed in the end.”
Adding that China Eastern expressed its deepest condolences to the family and was working to assist them, the airline concluded: “Additional information is subject to the police investigation.”
The family had to sign a waiver agreeing not to challenge details in the official Chinese police report, and the Easys hired private security to help retrieve the body.
Easy would have turned 58 on Christmas Eve; hoping to offer the grief-stricken family some comfort that day, members of the Freeport community, along with retired members of the New York Jets — Easy’s favorite team — brought the Easys a Christmas tree, a traditional holiday meal and dozens of presents for the family’s four children.
The funeral is planned for Jan. 4, Easy’s widow said.
With Robert Brodsky