Regional airline fined in death of Charlotte airport worker

CHARLOTTE (AP) — A regional subsidiary of American Airlines has been fined USD19,600 after an investigation into the 2019 death of a worker at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the North Carolina Department of Labour announced on Wednesday.

The agency was investigating the death of Kendrick Hudson, 24, who was a baggage handler for Piedmont Airlines. Police said Hudson died in August 2019 after the baggage tug he was driving overturned after he had swerved to avoid a piece of luggage on the tarmac.

The department cited the airline for three violations: not all employees were wearing seat belts during department inspections, no evaluations of tug operators were being conducted and tugs were not examined or inspected after each shift, The Charlotte Observer reported. The department recommended that Piedmont Airlines perform a lighting study around the area, including “especially dark” areas like Concourse E.

The company has 15 days from receipt of the citation to contest the penalty with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Review Commission of North Carolina. Hudson’s parents, Erika Vernon and Leon Hudson, recently filed a lawsuit against American Airlines and the city of Charlotte. Alex Hilliard, who represents Hudson’s parents in their lawsuit, said on Wednesday that more action needs to taken.

“OSHA citations are a step in the right direction, if Piedmont and their owner American decide to implement changes,” Hilliard said.

“The citation is not significant enough, but it’s one more step in the right direction, towards American Airlines hopefully realising there is a safety problem and it needs to be fixed.” American Airlines said in a statement that it is has received investigation information on Hudson’s death from the OSHA Division of the North Carolina Department of Labour. “Our priority is to ensure the safest possible workplace for our team members,” the company said.

“We are currently reviewing the information provided, and will use it to work with the city of Charlotte, the airport and our labour groups to continually increase the level of workplace safety for our team members.”