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.”