A Hawaii woman’s family is suing Alaska Airlines after she tumbled down an escalator at the Portland International Airport. They're saying their great-grandmother died because of injuries from the fall.
The attorney for the family of Bernice Kekona said they ordered an airport escort for her, who was supposed to accompany her at the airport. Instead, she was left to wander around alone after the escort never came.
Kekona was a Washington state resident who was born and raised in Maui, and was a great grandmother to 31 children. She was on her way home from visiting her family last summer in Maui when the incident happened.In the surveillance video, Kekona is seen tumbling down the escalator face first, after her family said she became confused and lost.
Passersby scrambled to help her, but her family says she was supposed to be escorted by a gate-to-gate wheelchair escort service provided by Alaska Airlines.
Attorney Brooke Cunningham says that the incident was devastating and should have never happened had the airline done what it was supposed to do.
"It was awful," he said. "The accounts from the medics, as well as the witnesses, is that she was screaming and crying in pain, and she was taken to the trauma unit at Portland Hospital. They call and tell the family that she is at the bottom of an escalator, and the family's first response is 'where the hell was the escort?'"
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, all airlines are required to provide a gate-to-gate escort for passengers with disabilities if requested. But according to Cunningham, Alaska Airlines couldn't provide answers as to why Kekona was unescorted. Instead, they turned around and charged the family full fares to get to Kekona at the Portland hospital to get her back home.
Kekona spent the next three months fighting for her life. She sustained dozens of wounds to her body, but it was the wound on her right Achilles tendon that ultimately led to her death. That right leg was amputated as a last-ditch attempt to try and save her, but she never recovered from the surgery, and Kekona passed away the following day.
In a statement given to Island News, Bobby Egan from Alaska Airlines said "After landing in Portland, Ms. Kekona was assisted into her own motorized scooter by an airport consortium wheelchair service provider Huntleigh. Once in the concourse, she went off on her own."