The family of a woman who was paralyzed after suffering a severe spinal cord injury when she fell from a wheelchair while boarding a Southwest Airlines flight at Fort Lauderdale airport is suing the airline and a third-party contractor that provides special assistance services.
Gabrielle Assouline’s family have accused Southwest and its contractor G2 Secure Staff of negligence in a lawsuit filed in a Florida district court following the “horrific” February 25 accident.
25-year-old Gabby Assouline of Miami had requested wheelchair assistance to help her board the Southwest flight because she already suffered from an extremely rare medical condition known as Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) which causes muscle tissue to turn to bone.
The condition restricted Gaby’s mobility but her mother, Sandra Assouline, says she had an active and fulfilled life up until the accident. “Nothing stopped her from living her life before,” Sandra says.
“Not even FOP. She created art with her hands, spending hours tending to her growing garden and crocheting well-loved pieces of clothing.”
But on February 25, court documents alleged that Gaby was thrown from her electric mobility scooter on a Southwest Airlines jetway after hitting a junction in the expendable jetty.
Gaby fell on her head and fractured her C2 vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic who requires a ventilator in order to breathe.
The lawsuit claims Southwest and its contractor were careless in failing to provide adequate assistance, not providing training and failing to warn users of the dangers of using the jetway.
Southwest Airlines has not commented on the lawsuit but a spokesperson says the carrier has “offered a response directly to those involved”. The airline says it is still investigating the incident.
In a statement, the spokesperson added: “Southwest Airlines’ primary priority is the Safety of our People and Customers both on the ground and in the air. We have reviewed the Customer’s initial account of her travel experience and have offered a response directly to those involved.”
Southwest will continue to work with the Customer and other involved parties to investigate and address the facts and circumstances relating to her travel experience. Southwest has spent more than 51 years caring for our People and Customers and remains committed to continuing to do so.”
The family’s attorney Robert Solomon, says Gaby remains “a prisoner in her own body”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.