Flight Information Cabinet Kills Boy; Seriously Injures Mother and Two Sons
A cabinet weighing at least 300 pounds which housed flight information monitors fell on several members of a family of seven people at the international airport of the largest city in Alabama as they were traveling back home to Overland Park, Kansas from a vacation in Destin, Florida.
Luke Bresette — who was ten years of age — was pronounced dead at Children’s of Alabama Hospital. His mother supposedly still does not know about his death at this time.
Heather Bresette reportedly remains in serious condition after undergoing surgery on two broken ankles and a broken left pelvis. Her five-year-old son Tyler suffered from a concussion; while the nose and a leg of her eight-year-old son Sam were broken.
The following is a video of a news report by KCTV Channel 5 News in Kansas City pertaining to this incident:
Members of the family were visited by a Catholic bishop and former members of the football team of the University of Alabama.
The cabinet housing the flight information monitors — part of a recent $201.6 million renovation, the most extensive modernization to the international airport in Birmingham since it opened in 1931 — was reportedly fastened to the wall with construction adhesive instead of mounting bracket hardware, as it was supposedly designed to stand on its own, similar to an armoire or a home entertainment center. People were screaming as witnesses struggled to right the cabinet back up off of the bloodied victims. The cabinet was allegedly not inspected because it was not a structural component of the building.
Even though inspection was supposedly not required according to municipal code, does this incident constitute negligence on the part of the contractor or the airport itself? At the very least, the investigation into this tragic incident should hopefully result in changes to the municipal code and stricter inspection policies to ensure that a similar incident does not occur again in the future.
Alabama state law supposedly grants airport authorities and their employees immunity from lawsuits claiming negligence — whether the incident is considered relatively minor or serious — and because of this immunity, a precedent has apparently been set, as airport authorities around Alabama have purportedly been dismissed from such lawsuits over the years.
Unfortunately for the contractors hired by the airport for construction, maintenance or operations, they are not protected by such immunity — and the airport authorities could still face liability if gross negligence or wantonness are proven by the plaintiff of a lawsuit.
I am not an expert on construction, but even I would have taken precautions to ensure that a tall heavy object with such a high center of gravity is secured as much as possible to prevent injuries or damage — regardless of the minimal requirements dictated by municipal code. Technically, the contractor did follow code, although they could have done more to secure the cabinet in question. The airport authority and the state of Alabama should be held accountable for this incident, in my opinion.
Unless there are other ways to hold governments accountable for actions resulting from decisions made by their employees, perhaps it is also time to revisit the amount of immunity they currently enjoy — without allowing frivolous lawsuits against government entities to bog down the judicial process, of course.
Members of the Birmingham Airport Authority met in an emergency session to discuss safety and security issues. Some changes have reportedly already been implemented, including signs informing passengers and visitors not to touch or lean on the cabinets housing the flight status information monitors, as well as positioning yellow gates around those cabinets.
Unfortunately, those changes are too little and too late for Luke Bresette and his family — and they are not nearly enough to prevent another potential tragedy in the future. Sadly, this entire incident could have been easily prevented from happening in the first place if only the proper precautions were taken.