Airline fined $15k after worker sucked into jet engine

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has imposed a $15,625 fine on Piedmont Airlines, a regional subsidiary of American Airlines, for the death of Courtney Edwards – a ground crew worker – who was sucked into the engine of a plane at Montgomery Regional Airport on New Year’s Eve. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that Edwards, 34, was taken by the engine while “on the ramp” of American Airlines Flight 3408, an Embraer E175.

The NTSB found that two safety briefings were held ten minutes before the plane’s arrival to the gate, in which the personnel was instructed not to approach the aircraft until the engine was shut off and the beacon light was switched off. However, when the plane landed in Montgomery, the pilot was informed that the front cargo door was opened, and surveillance footage then showed Edwards walking towards the back of the plane, holding an orange safety cone. Another co-pilot reported that the “airplane shook violently followed by the immediate automatic shutdown”.

In response to the tragedy, a GoFundMe was launched in order to help Edwards’ three children. The page has raised more than $114,000, which is four times the original goal of $25,000. American Airlines shared their condolences in a statement, saying: “We are devastated by the accident involving a team member of Piedmont Airlines, an American Airlines regional carrier, at Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM). 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 Communications Workers of America, Edwards’ union, responded to the investigation’s findings by saying that the airline was responsible for the safety breach due to “lack of effective training, clear and unambiguous communication on the ramp, and clear instructions from supervisors as to when it is safe to approach an aircraft.”