The family of a Spokane, Washington, woman is suing Alaska Airlines and a contractor after the woman fell down an escalator and died.
The 75-year-old great-grandmother Bernice Kekona accidentally maneuvered her motorized scooter down the escalator at Portland International Airport in Oregon. She had been traveling back home from Maui, Hawaii.
A worker left her alone on a concourse at the Portland airport instead of getting her to the connecting flight, Oregonlive.com reported, citing a lawsuit filed in the King County Superior Court in Seattle.
“She was 74 and a diabetic, and she got confused from time to time in settings that weren’t familiar to her,” said Troy Nelson, an attorney representing Kekona’s estate. “She was fine at the neighborhood grocery store, but at places like the Portland International Airport, she had a tendency to get confused.”
Kekona apparently thought she was steering the scooter toward the elevator but instead, it was the escalator.
“She was provided assistance off the airplane and into her wheelchair by Alaska’s company that they contract with, Huntleigh, and then she was left there, and she became confused and that led to the fall,” attorney Brook Cunningham said, according to CBS News.
In the incident, Kekona and her scooter fell down the escalator. It took more than one minute before bystanders were able to pull the scooter off of Kekona, the lawsuit said. The scooter weighs a few hundred pounds.
The lawsuit said that she survived the initial fall but her wound got infected. She died after a leg amputation operation, the suit said, according to Oregonlive.com.
“I couldn’t understand how a wonderful trip ended up so devastating,” her daughter, Darlene Bloyed said, according to CBS.
“All they needed was somebody to get her off the plane, use the escort service that they’re required by law to provide… She would have been home perfectly fine,” Cunningham said.
In a statement, Alaska Airlines denied some of the claims made in the lawsuit.
“It appears that Ms. Kekona declined ongoing assistance in the terminal and decided to proceed on her own to her connecting flight,” the statement said. Meanwhile, her reservation did not note any “cognitive, visual or auditory impairments,” the statement said.
“It also appears that when her family members booked the reservation, they did not check any of the boxes for a passenger with ‘Blind/low vision,’ ‘Deaf/hard of hearing,’ or ‘Other special needs (i.e., developmental or intellectual disability, senior/elderly),’” the statement continued, reported KIRO7. “So, there was no indication in the reservation that Ms. Kekona had cognitive, visual, or auditory impairments.”
“We learned from bystanders that Ms. Kekona sustained a fall while attempting to operate her own electronic chair down a moving escalator next to the A concourse elevator. We immediately called the Port of Portland Fire and Rescue, along with Port of Portland Police, who responded to the scene quickly to provide her medical treatment,” the statement added.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify any monetary damages. However, it stated that medical bills totaled $300,000.
The case is slated for trial in December 2018.
A video of the fall can be seen below (Warning: Video contains potentially disturbing content):