A family in the state of Washington has filed a suit against Alaskan Airlines as well as a contractor for the airline in response to a fall by their 75-year-old grandmother on an escalator at Portland International Airport. The suit alleges that both airline and contractor was negligent in caring for the elderly woman.
The suit specifically states that after a flight from Hawaii Bernice Kekona was assisted by contractors and placed in a wheelchair then strapped in a seatbelt. The airline has concurred with this description of happenings.
The family alleges that employees for the contractor left Kekona alone when they were in fact required to transfer her to her next gate.
The lawsuit explains that when Kekona showed her ticket to the Alaska Airlines employee working her arrival gate that the employee motioned for Ketona to proceed in the proper direction alone. Minutes later, the lawsuit maintains, Kekona became confused and lost and was unable to find her gate.
Kekona was seen on airport surveillance cameras seated in the wheelchair at the top of an escalator. She would later explain that she thought the escalator to be an elevator. The 75-year-old woman would tumble 21 steps down the elevator as it moved.
Bystanders rushed to Kekona’s aid but it was immediately obvious that she was badly injured. The family states that Kekona sustained injuries to her head and chest and suffered gashes on the side of her head. Kekona also received cuts in the area of her Achilles tendon.
The Federal law is specific in stating that airlines are responsible for providing assistance to disabled persons when traveling. This is to include when travelers seek to make connections.
Alaska Airlines said that the investigation continues but expressed a belief that Kekona declined any assistance once inside the terminal. Deciding instead, the airline states, to proceed on her own.
The airline also asserts that when the family of Kekona booked her flight they failed to check any of the boxes that would have alerted the airline that she was suffering from a certain set of disabilities.
ABC News was informed by Alaska Airlines that it is indeed a right of the traveler to decline assistance if it is unwanted. The airline also expressed heartbreak over the unfortunate accident.
Bernice Kekone died three months after her fall down the escalator at the Portland International Airport. Kekone’s family is adamant in their claims that the death of their grandmother was a direct result of injuries incurred during her fall.