American Airlines Investigator Allegedly Attempts to Blame Suicide As Cause of Worker’s Death
I have no great affection for employers who fail to provide a safe workplace — as the law and common morality dictate. Especially, when, as a result of that negligence, workers are hurt or killed.
But I have real contempt for employers who lie about how their employees were injured or killed.
Such is the case with the death of American Airlines employee Michal Ingraham who was killed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on April 20, 2023, when the aircraft-towing vehicle he was driving accelerated more than expected and crashed into a jet bridge.
According to a police report obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, the tug Ingraham was operating was known by some staff to have “several mechanical issues,” including a brake failure that caused a collision 10 days before Ingraham’s death. Ingraham “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 jet bridge. One 911 call suggested that the vehicle’s accelerator pedal got stuck.”
Menzies Aviation, which provides “safe and efficient aviation services,” was responsible for the tug’s maintenance
The plot thickens.
The report also states that Lynn Fast, a corporate investigator for American Airlines, contacted police a day after the incident telling them he had been led to believe that the incident may have been a suicide rather than an accident.
He came to this conclusion after calling Ingraham’s father, who apologized to Fast for the incident, as well as from Facebook posts found on Ingraham’s profile, according to the newspaper.
However, according to the police report seen by the Statesman, Austin police rebuffed that claim following interviews with Ingraham’s colleagues and a lack of clarity from Fast about some of his claims.
But not so fast.
Austin police were also tipped off by an anonymous employee who said that despite being “marked ‘out of service’ numerous times for failed brakes,” the vehicle wasn’t repaired and continued to be operated by staff.
Both the Travis County medical examiner and police concluded that the worker had been killed by accident, per the report.
American Airlines is heartbroken about the death.
American was fined $15,625 following an incident late last year at Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama, where a ground crew worker died after she was “ingested” into an airplane engine.
This article originally appeared in Jordan Barab’s newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues, Confined Space, and is republished with permission.