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Report: American Airlines Employee Killed by Poor Maintenance

31 Jul, 2023 Liz Carey

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Austin, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – An American Airlines employee killed on the job in Austin earlier this year was killed by poor maintenance, not suicide, a new report has found.

On April 20, Michael Ingraham, was operating a ground service vehicle, or a jet tug, at the Austin International Airport when the vehicle struck a jet bridge. The employee was pronounced dead at the scene. Austin Police Department’s vehicular homicide unit investigated the incident.

"We are devastated by the accident involving a team member at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)," the airline said in a statement at the time. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and our local team members. We are focused on ensuring that all involved have the support they need during this difficult time."

The investigation found no drugs or alcohol in the employee’s system, and both police and the medical examiner said the incident looked like an accidental death from blunt force injuries. However, investigators said they were told by a corporate investigator for American Airlines that it was suicide.

The police report said the investigator contacted the police and said he had “obtained information overnight indicating that the fatal incident was a suicide and not an accident.”

Lynn Fast, a corporate investigator for the airline, contacted the police and said he believed, based on a conversation with Ingraham’s father and posts from Ingraham’s Facebook account, that Ingraham’s death was self-inflicted.

“Fast told police he had 30 years of law enforcement experience, and came to believe Ingraham’s death was a suicide after contacting Ingraham’s father, the police report said. During their conversation, Fast told police the father apologized for the ordeal — a sentiment Fast said he ‘found strange,’” the Austin American-Stateman newspaper reported.

However, police disagreed with his suggestions.

"I explained that several AA employees were interviewed on site and no one had mentioned anything that would indicate this was intentional and further stated that everyone we spoke with stated that the tug he was driving was known to have issues," the investigating detective wrote in the police report. "This case is determined to be an accidental death and is non-criminal therefore will be cleared administratively," the detective continued.

An investigation by the police, however, found that the vehicle the employee was operating had “several mechanical issues” including brake failures.

Police said they were contacted by an anonymous employee that the vehicle had service issues that were never addressed.

The report said the vehicle had crashed into a guardrail 10 days earlier. On the day of the incident, police said, the employee was starting to push an aircraft, but the tug went faster than usual and veered right. At that point the 14-ton vehicle crashed near a gate and pinned the employee between the vehicle and the jet bridge. According to 911 calls, the vehicle’s accelerator pedal was stuck.

Investigators found that the vehicle had been marked “out of service” numerous times for brake failures, but was not serviced and continued to be used.

The findings come just one month after the death of another Texas airline employee was determined to be a suicide.

On June 26, David Renner, 27 of San Antonio, an airline worker was ingested into a plane’s engine. The plane was arriving from Los Angeles, officials said, and was in the process of taxiing to the gate on one engine when Renner was sucked into the engine.

Officials in that incident at the San Antonio International Airport determined the cause of Renner’s death was “blunt and sharp force injuries,” and the manner of death was suicide.

In a written statement, the NTSB said that no investigation was pending, as “there were no operational safety issues with either the airplane or the airport.”

Renner was employed by Unifi, a company that handles ground operations at many U.S. airports and is contracted by Delta in San Antonio.

Both Delta and the airport said they were saddened by the incident.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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