The Spokane family of a 75-year-old wheelchair-bound great-grandmother is suing Alaska Airlines and its contractor Huntleigh USA, claiming airline workers’ failure to care for her resulted in her fall down a Portland airport escalator and her death three months later from her injuries.
Bernice Kekona’s family requested a gate-to-gate escort service during her trip from Maui to Spokane in June 2017, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges Kakona’s family called Alaska Airlines three times to make sure she would not be left alone during her trip. Federal law requires airlines to assist disabled passengers on and off their flights, and between gates to make connections.
Kakona, who had impaired vision and hearing, also had a prosthetic left leg and used a power wheelchair for mobility.
The lawsuit claims Kakona was helped off her Alaska flight from Maui to Portland, but workers from Huntleigh USA left her in the terminal to find her next gate alone. Kakona is seen on Portland airport surveillance wandering through the airport, and moving her wheelchair to the top of an escalator.
The lawsuit claims Kakona, who suffered extensive injuries, told first responders she was confused and thought she was boarding an elevator before she fell down 22 escalator steps, face first, with her heavy electric wheelchair on top of her.
Alaska airlines released this statement:
The lawsuit claims the airline had a responsibility to escort Kekona to her connecting flight in Portland, no matter what she may have told a worker, or what boxes they may not have checked. The case is scheduled for trial next December.
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