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Tennessee Man Home for the Holidays after Collapsing at Atlanta Airport

Release Date: 
November 23, 2021

* Editor’s note: Further imagery available contact Rob Brisley at Note one officer’s first name withheld at their request.

ATLANTA - Coming together for the Thanksgiving holiday is always a cherished time. This year will be memorable for a Tennessee family after Atlanta U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers successfully administered life-saving aid and resuscitated Mr. HC Wheatley, a doctor, when he collapsed after arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on November 19, aboard a flight from Costa Rica.

ATL CBPOs and HC Wheatly
(l-r) DR. "HC" Wheatley and wife thank Atlanta
CBP officers following discharge from hospital

Friday evening, CBP Officer Darrell Earnhart witnessed Wheatley, 74, stumble and collapse while in line at CBP’s federal inspection station. Earnhart immediately responded and found the traveler to be unconscious. He alerted other CBP officers to call 911 as he retrieved a nearby Automated External Defibrillator (AED). 

Officer Earnhart then observed that Wheatley had stopped breathing and detected no pulse.  Earnhart, joined by CBP officers Ryan Shaw, Plaku and a good Samaritan traveler identified as a trained paramedic, initiated life-saving efforts including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“The immediate and decisive actions by our Customs and Border Protection officers, and particularly the incredible first-aid response demonstrated by our officers, helped save this man’s life,” said, Paula Rivera, CBP’s Area Port Director Atlanta. “On any given day our officers across the country are ready and willing to help those in need.”

Officer Earnhart administered three AED shocks between CPR rotations, which revived Wheatley. He then began to breathe on his own and officers detected a pulse. The CBP officers and paramedic continued life-sustaining aid until ATL airport Emergency Medical Services arrived. EMS then transported Wheatley and his family to an area hospital.

ATL CBPOs and Dr Wheatly
(l-r) CBP officers Plaku, Shaw, Dr. "HC" Wheatley
and officer Earnhart outside Atlanta hospital 

 At the request of the family, the responding CBP officers met with Mr. Wheatley, his wife and daughter outside the Atlanta hospital upon his discharge. The Wheatly family headed home to Tennessee for follow-up treatment with a concrete reminder that we all have something to be thankful for this holiday season.

 “I saw the officers working to save my husband and was thinking the worst,” said, Connie Wheatley, wife of Dr. HC Wheatley. “There is no way our family can thank those guys enough for everything they did.” 

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations.

CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality. Learn more what CBP accomplished during "A Typical Day" in 2020.

Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders. Learn more about CBP at

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Last modified: 
November 23, 2021