An Alabama airport in Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama has been fined $15,625 following an incident late last year where a ground crew worker died after she was ingested into an airplane engine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA fined Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines subsidiary, yesterday after investigators determined the airline was at fault in the death of Courtney Edwards, a ground agent for Piedmont Airlines.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board NTSB found Edwards, a 34-year-old mother of three, was approaching American Airlines Flight 3408 when it had recently landed when she was sucked into the engine. The penalty of $15,625 is the maximum under the law.
OSHA said the employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment that were free from recognized hazards that were causing or were likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees exposed to ingestion and jet blast hazards.
A Piedmont Airlines spokeswoman, Crystal Byrd, said the company is investigating the incident.
Safety is our top priority for our team members, Byrd said. We appreciate the recommendations from OSHA and will ensure that a thorough review is completed. The suspension comes after an NTSB preliminary report released in January was favorable to the airline. The airport said the ground crew held two safety briefings before the plane arrived at the gate.
The NTSB has told employees that they should not approach the plane until the engine is shut off and a beacon light is turned off.
The co-pilot attempted to inform the workers on the ground that the engines were still on but Immediately afterwards, he saw a warning light illuminate and the airplane shook violently, according to the NTSB report.
Unsure of what had happened, he extinguished the emergency lights and shut off both batteries before leaving the flight deck to investigate.
In surveillance footage, Edwards was seen in the plane's cockpit but disappeared from view.
The report says that she was subsequently pulled off her feet and into the operating engine.
The NTSB report found Edwards didn't remain safe until the airplane's rotating beacon light shut off, leading to the aircraft's failure to keep in a safe distance.
We are devastated by the accident involving a team member of Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, at Montgomery Regional Airport MGM, the airline said in a statement. We are dedicated to ensuring that all involved have the support they need during this difficult time. The company has 15 days to pay the penalties they owe.
A fundraising campaign has been set up online to support funeral expenses and Edwards' children. As of Tuesday morning, it has raised more than $122,000.