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American Airlines and Columbia Metropolitan Airport are being sued by a family of a passenger who was struck by lightning and killed last summer.

American Airlines sued after passenger killed by lightning

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Friday, April 29, 2016, 3:04 PM - American Airlines and Columbia Metropolitan Airport are being sued by a family of a passenger who was struck by lightning and killed last summer.

Last June a flight from Hartford, Connecticut to Charlotte, North Carolina was diverted to Columbia, South Carolina due to bad weather. As the passengers exited the aircraft, 52-year-old Sonya Dockett was struck by lightning on the tarmac and later died.

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"It was obvious she had taken a direct hit by the lightning," a fellow passenger told WISTV. "She was bleeding from her forehead."

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Dockett's family against U.S. Airways, which has since merged with American Airlines, and the airport for negligence.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants did not immediately deplane the passengers. The flight had landed at Columbia Metropolitan Airport at 5:07 p.m. on June 27 and deplaning did not begin until 5:52 p.m. The National Weather Service in Columbia issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area ten minutes before the passengers exited the plane. 

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"Defendants neither notified Ms. Dockett of the imminent danger of severe lightning and thunderstorms in the area, nor did they take any steps to ensure the reasonable safety of the passengers or Ms. Dockett," the family's legal counsel wrote in a complaint. "Ms. Dockett came to her untimely death as a direct and proximate result of Defendants' negligent, grossly negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless conduct or failure."

The legal complaint goes on to say Dockett's husband, son and daughter, who were with her at the time of the incident, have all suffered emotional damage.

Meanwhile, the Columbia Metropolitan Airport also released a statement:

As airport operators we provide all of our carriers with passenger boarding bridges so that they can safely move passengers between the terminal and their aircraft. However, the airport is not involved in determining when or how they choose to deplane passengers. When the incident occurred, our public safety officers followed their procedures and responded within seconds. At this time, the airport and its legal team has not yet received notification that the Columbia Metropolitan Airport has been named in a lawsuit. Therefore, we are unable to provide any other specifics about the incident.

While an American Airlines spokesperson said the company extends its deepest condolences to the family, the company will not address the lawsuit in the media.


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