Surprised woman gives birth in room behind Tucson airport ticket counter

June 11, 2007

An early arrival caused quite a commotion among employees of two competing airlines at Tucson International Airport Tuesday afternoon.

Isis Alondra Betancourt was born just after 2 p.m. in an office behind a US Airways ticket counter, in a circle of firefighters and police officers who rushed to the aid of her astonished mother, Victoria Betancourt, 34.

Betancourt wasn't expecting her second daughter for at least two weeks. Isis was due Oct. 20, and her mother planned on welcoming her at a birth center, surrounded by midwives.

But Isis hinted she might not wait that long while her mother, a Southwest Airlines employee, was on a US Airways flight bound for Tucson. "I felt some discomfort, I felt sweaty," Betancourt said.

Betancourt, who commutes to Phoenix for her job as a customer- service representative, thought she was experiencing false labor pains. She planned on going in for a checkup when she arrived in Tucson.

But Isis was well on her way.

Her mother was having strong contractions by the time the plane landed.

Within minutes, a knot of firefighters, police officers and skycaps and an emergency-room nurse who was on the same flight as Betancourt rushed to a ticket counter screaming for a private room. The mother's water had ruptured while she waited for the ambulance.

Isis was ready to enter the world.

"I screamed, 'She's coming, I think she's coming!' So then they all panicked," Betancourt - a sleeping Isis cuddled in her arms - recalled Wednesday in a room filled with roses, carnations and balloons at Tucson Medical Center.

Airline employees cleared the way to a manager's office, Betancourt said, where she lay down on a rug to give birth.

Bill Swecker, a firefighter for the Tucson Airport Authority, delivered a healthy, 5-pound, 6-ounce baby as police officers and the nurse assisted.

It was unlike anything he had done before in his 18 years on the job, Swecker said a day later.

"Once we had her in the office, the baby was there within two to five minutes," said Swecker, 38. "She was tiny and had a full head of hair."

The firefighter gave much of the credit to Betancourt for the smooth birth. "Mom was a good patient," he said. "She did the hard work. She knew the drill and she was calm."

Swecker said he just did what he was supposed to do. "You just let your training take over," he said. "And with all the bad things you see, it was nice to be part of something that joyful."

* Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or

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