American Airlines Employee Killed By Poorly-Maintained Tug, Tried To Call It A Suicide

In April an American Airlines employee in Austin was killed when a tug that had a history of mechanical problems crashed into a jet bridge. American Airlines suggested to authorities that it may have been a suicide. The police report is out, and it looks like poor maintenance by a contractor.

The tug had “several mechanical issues” including brake faillure. It collided into a guardrail 10 days earlier. On this day the employee started to push back an aircraft, but the tug went faster than usual. It veered right. And the 14-ton vehicle crashed near gate 24 and pinned the man between the vehicle and the jetbridge. One 911 call suggested that the vehicle’s accelerator pedal got stuck.

Tug had been “marked out of service numerous times for failed brakes” it reportedly was not serviced and continued to be used. Maintenance of the vehicle is “managed by Menzies Airlines.”

On April 27, a detective with the vehicular homicide unit, Kerry Kelly, said Austin police had received an email alleging the same pushback had been in a collision 10 days before the fatal April 20 incident as a result of a brake failure, according to the report. The report does not state from whom the email was sent.

Credit: Austin Police Department

While no drugs or alcohol were found in the employee’s system, and both the police and medical examiner declared it an accidental death resulting from blunt force injuries, a corporate investigator for American Airlines suggested it was a suicide. There’s now an investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

One day after the incident, Lynn Fast, a corporate investigator for the Fort Worth-based airline, contacted Austin police, stating he had “obtained information overnight indicating that the fatal incident was a suicide and not an accident,” according to the police report.

Fast told police he had 30 years of law enforcement experience, and came to believe Ingraham’s death was a suicide after contacting Ingraham’s father, the police report said. During their conversation, Fast told police the father apologized for the ordeal — a sentiment Fast said he “found strange.”

American pointed to several Facebook posts in support of the claim, but investigators disagree, and colleagues didn’t share anything to suggest the employee struggled in this manner. And the employee’s father pushed back as well.

According to American Airlines,

We are heartbroken by the accident involving a team member at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in April. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and our local team members. We are focused on ensuring that all involved have the support they need during this difficult time. American is fully cooperating in this open investigation.

I wrote about Menzies earlier this month. I understand their reputation to be the company to hire because they’re cheap, not because they’re good.

It’s not obvious why an American Airlines investigator was trying to determine cause of death, and focusing on the Facebook page of the driver, except they seem to have freelanced perhaps to try to be a hero to the airline by reducing their liability? As he entered the role of CEO, Robert Isom told employees, “This is for everybody. We can’t spend a dollar more than we need to. And we shouldn’t.”

(HT: @RossFeinstein)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Menzies is the Walmart of air services. Cheap.
    2 weeks ago, I had to deal with these clowns in Scotland.
    They were completely clueless.

  2. Very very dumb and shortsighted response from AA. Menzies is at fault here, and any comment from AA should have stated only that or that investigation was pending

    Instead, that lady went rogue digging through social media and jumped to an insane conclusion on her own. Makes AA look horrible in a situation they really didn’t have much to do with

  3. Cost minimization is all you have when you generate a commodity and have a brand associated with poor quality. Now AA will soon have even higher labor costs. That means more third party vendors.

  4. I can’t believe the company calls themselves Menzies. That alone would be a deal-breaker for working with them.

  5. AA culture is truly rotten to the core. Thanks for this exposé.

    I wonder how bad is their airplane maintenance? Probably to FAA minimums (in which case thank goodness for regulation!)?

  6. Companies try to blame others when bad things happen to avoid liability and they often do so in incredibly stupid ways.

    I used to know someone who was charged with murder from a hospital trying to avoid blame for buying shoddy supplies. Turns out they asked their expert witness whether the damage was consistent with being cut rather than if the damage was from being cut. The expert presumably correctly said that it was consistent–but never considered whether it was consistent with it simply breaking because it was shoddy because that wasn’t asked.

    The nurses had been complaining about the lines breaking–oops, a line broke at exactly the worst place and a baby in the NICU died.

  7. 2 ramp employees have died that work for an AA owned company in the last 8 months. Why are they more worried about the flight crews money than keeping ramp employees alive ?

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