Family sues Alaska Airlines after elderly woman falls down PDX escalator

(SBG photo)

The family of a 75-year-old Washington grandmother is suing Alaska Airlines, after she fell down a Portland International Airport escalator in June 2017, according to reports from ABC News and court documents obtained by KATU News.

Bernice Kekona was landing in at PDX from Hawaii, and was placed into a seat-belted wheelchair by contractors at the airport. Her family says that contractor was supposed to escort her to the next gate, but she was left alone.

Kekona reportedly asked an Alaska Airlines employee where she should go, and that employee "gestured in the direction" she was supposed to go.

According to the lawsuit, Kekona then got lost at the airport and when she came to a set of escalators, she got on one, thinking she was getting on the elevator.

She then tumbled about 20 steps down the escalator and was hospitalized.

She suffered trauma to her head and chest, a cut to her Achilles tendon and gashes on the side of her face. Several months later, her leg was amputated because of a wound to her tendon.

Kekona died the next day.

Alaska Airlines released the following statements to ABC affiliate KXLY in Spokane, Wash.:

“We're heartbroken by this tragic and disturbing incident. After landing in Portland, Ms. Kekona was assisted into her own motorized scooter by an airport consortium wheelchair service provider who then escorted her from the aircraft into the concourse. Once in the concourse, she went off on her own. 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."

Thursday, Alaska Airlines emailed KXLYto add this to the company's statement: "We don’t have all the facts, but after conducting a preliminary investigation, it appears that Ms. Kekona declined ongoing assistance in the terminal and decided to proceed on her own to her connecting flight. 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).” So, there was no indication in the reservation that Ms. Kekona had cognitive, visual, or auditory impairments."

According to the lawsuit, Kekona "requested 'mobility/wheelchair' assistance for the entire trip" when she bought her ticket. The lawsuit also said that Kekona and her family "confirmed on 3 separate occasions that the gate-to-gate assistance would be provided by Alaska Airlines to Bernice."

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