A woman who was left with a severe spinal cord injury after falling from her wheelchair while boarding a Southwest Airlines flight at Fort Lauderdale Airport has tragically died 11 months after the accident, her family has announced.
Gabrielle Assouline fell on her head and fractured her C2 vertebrae, leaving her quadriplegic in the ‘horrific’ accident that her family claims was the result of negligence on the part of Southwest Airlines and its third-party special assistance contractor.
The 25-year-old had been in intensive care in the hospital ever since the accident in February 2022 and had required a ventilator in order to breathe for the last 11 months of her life.
Gaby had requested wheelchair assistance to board the flight from Fort Lauderdale to Denver because she suffered from a condition known as Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which causes muscle tissue to turn to bone.
Although the extremely rare medical condition severely restricted Gaby’s movement, her mother says she had an active and fulfilled life up right up until the tragic accident.
But on February 25, 2022, court documents allege that Gaby was thrown from her electric mobility scooter on a Southwest Airlines airbridge after hitting a junction in the expendable jetty.
The lawsuit argues that Southwest and its contractor, G2 Secure Staff, were careless in failing to provide adequate assistance, not providing adequate staff training and failing to warn users of the dangers of using the jetway.
After an excruciating 11-month battle, Gaby’s mother Sandra Assouline, announced the death of her beloved daughter on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for her treatment.
“It’s with a heavy heart and profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our precious daughter and sister,” Sandra wrote on behalf of Gaby’s extended family.
“Gaby was not alone at the end. We were all blessed to be with her bedside, crying, praying and sharing Gaby stories,” the update continued.
In recent weeks, it had been revealed that Gaby’s condition had worsened despite the best hopes of the family that she may one day be discharged from the hospital.
Southwest Airlines has contended that Gaby refused assistance in boarding the aircraft, negating it and G2 Secure Staff of responsibility for the accident.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the embattled airline said: “Southwest offers its sincere condolences to Ms. Assouline’s family, friends and all whose lives she touched.”
“We have a more than 51-year commitment to caring for our People and Customers and remain engaged with the parties involved.”
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.
Passenger refused help…how can this be SW fault?
I have flown with SWA for many years, I find it hard to believe they would refuse her assistance. I’ve even had the pilots help with wheel chairs since the pandemic. I feel sorry for the family but don’t comprehend how this is Southwest is at fault. Unfortunately this is probably a he said, she said situation. I will continue to fly SWA and use a wheelchair. I hope it gets resolved in an honest manner.