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.
ABC News was informed by Alaska Airlines that it is indeed a right of the traveler to decline assistance if it is unwanted. Reporter: Kekona was flying from maui to Spokane connecting through Portland and Alaska airlines was required by law to escort kekona to her next flight but they claim huntleigh, usa, the contract they contract abandoned her. Reporter: In this video you can see kekona's wheelchair, it weighs several hundred pounds on top of her.
Huntleigh didn't respond immediately to requests for comment.
After tumbling almost 21 steps, the clip shows a man, riding up the opposite side of the pair of escalators, leaping over the sides to try and help Kekona as several other rush over to lift the heavy chair off of her.
Once a year, for the past 3 years, Bernice had made the round trip from Spokane to Maui to spend a month with her family.
Bernice Kekona's family says Alaska promised she would be escorted from one gate to another at the airport in Portland, Oregon, in June. "It's not something they voluntarily provide". Reporter: Alaska says we're heartbroken by this tragic and disturbing incident saying it appears Ms. Kekona declined ongoing continues in the terminal and made a decision to proceed on her own to her connecting flight and when her family booked the reservation they did not check boxes indicating she had any impairments like trouble seeing or hearing.
Whether she chose to leave or was left to navigate on her own is not clear. 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)".
Kekona appeared to confuse the escalator for an elevator. She stopped at a security checkpoint and an airport store looking for her departure gate, the lawsuit claims. The airline also noted her reservation did not note any "cognitive, visual or auditory impairments". A man jumps over from the up side of the escalator to try to stop the fall. She suffered a lengthy list of injuries and sent to the hospital. The suit was filed in King County because that's where Alaska Airlines is based.
"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, one of the Spokane attorneys representing Kekona's estate. It was described as a "non-healing wound" the lawsuit said.
"She'd lay in bed screaming, banging on the walls, pounding on her other [prothstetic] leg to take away the pain", said Kekona's granddaughter Desiree Kekahuna. Her tendon never healed, and an infection lead to an amputation, which she never recovered from. She died in September.
"Between her injury and her death, Bernice incurred nearly $300,000 in medical bills to treat her injuries from the fall", Nelson and Cunningham wrote.
"If they just provided the service Bernice Kekona would be here today".