Sonya Dockett, 52, died after being struck by lightning while exiting a US Airways plane last year and now the airline faces a lawsuit.
“It was obvious she had taken a direct hit by the lightning," a fellow passenger reportedly told WISTV. “She was bleeding from the mouth. She was bleeding from her forehead.”
Dockett’s family is suing American Airlines — which has merged with US Airways — and Columbia Metropolitan Airport for negligence following her death, Mashable reports.
"Ms. Dockett came to her untimely death as a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligent, grossly negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless conduct or failure," the family's attorneys wrote in the complaint.
Due to weather conditions, the flight Dockett was on diverted from its route and landed in Columbia, South Carolina instead of continuing to its original destination: Charlotte International Airport.
She was hit by lightning after stepping onto the tarmac with her husband, son, and daughter in tow.
Luckily, no one else was struck. According to the lawsuit, the flight crew began letting people off the plane at 5:52 p.m. — 10 minutes after the National Weather Service delivered a severe thunderstorm warning.
While the airline refused to speak on the matter with the media, the airport released a statement attempting to distance itself from any claims of wrongdoing.
“As airport operators we provide all of our carriers with passenger boarding bridges so that they can safely move passengers between the terminal and their aircraft,” the statement read. “However, the airport is not involved in determining when or how they choose to deplane passengers. When the incident occurred, our public safety officers followed their procedures and responded within seconds. At this time, the airport and its legal team has not yet received notification that the Columbia Metropolitan Airport has been named in a lawsuit. Therefore, we are unable to provide any other specifics about the incident.”
According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, the odds of someone in the U.S. being struck by lightning are 1 in 280,000.
This indicates that it’s a pretty unlikely and unpredictable occurrence; however, a key piece of evidence in this case could be the fact that the crew received warning of the severe weather conditions and clearly did not take the proper steps to ensure passengers’ safety.
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