Regardless of deadlines and the urgency of a trip, we need to set standards and minimums that we operate within.
I feel very sorry for such a loss, but the captain should have had the foresight to just say NO. We do it all the time to maintain safe operations.
I've cancelled a few flights the some of would have produced revenue of several hundred thousand dollars, but the alternative if we didn't make it would have been much worse.
"I think we can make it" without a solid way out is fool hearty.
Nonetheless, my heart goes out to this family.... heartbreaking.