The pilot on board the Cessna airplane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico likely suffered from hypoxia when the plane's cabin depressurized.
Hypoxia is a deprivation of oxygen in the blood stream. Although there are many different types of hypoxia, generalized hypoxia occurs in high altitudes, which causes altitude sickness and can lead to anoxia – a complete lack of oxygen in blood or tissue. Anoxia usually results in death.
Airplanes are pressurized with oxygen because air is thinner at higher altitudes. When a plane loses cabin pressure, oxygen masks are dropped inside the plane to prevent hypoxia.
A person can recover from hypoxia and anoxia, but it depends on how much cell and tissue damage has resulted in the deprivation of oxygen.
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