CHARLOTTE — The family of Delvonte Tisdale has sued the city of Charlotte, its airport and US Airways, claiming their negligence caused the teen to plummet from the wheel well of a Boeing 737 to his death in a Boston suburb in 2010.
The lawsuit, filed in Mecklenburg Superior Court last week, says the defendants should have done more to prevent Tisdale from getting onto the airport’s tarmac and into the wheel well of the plane. It seeks damages in excess of $10,000.
In a statement, City Attorney Bob Hagemann responded: “The city remains saddened by the death of Delvonte Tisdale and wishes to express sympathy for his family. However, I don’t see how the city or the airport could or should be held legally liable for Mr. Tisdale’s decisions and actions.”
Tisdale ran away from home sometime on Nov. 14, 2010. A day later, his body was found in a Boston suburb so badly damaged that an autopsy couldn’t determine the cause of death. A scribbled hall pass with Tisdale’s name on it provided investigators their only clue.
Authorities determined the North Mecklenburg High School sophomore likely sneaked onto the tarmac of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of US Airways Flight 1176, bound for Boston.
The breach raised questions about the airport’s security. If a 16-year-old who had never flown before could evade the airport’s security measures, why not a terrorist?
Shortly after the Tisdale incident, the airport was further embarrassed by two break-ins reported over three days.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police conducted a review of security, and in April, a heavily redacted report said the airport’s police force is inadequate to properly monitor the nation’s 11th-busiest airport.
Shortly after the report was released, an attorney for the Tisdales hinted the family might sue. Christopher Chestnut, an attorney representing Tisdale’s parents when the report was released, said it didn’t provide the answers they want about how their son died.
He added that it appeared the family wouldn’t get answers unless it filed a lawsuit.
The airport told the Observer that it has already implemented some of the security recommendations noted in CMPD’s report.
And earlier this month, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police announced that airport police would be merged completely into CMPD, and that the department would likely add more officers to beef up airport security.
CMPD Deputy Chief Kerr Putney said the changes stem, in part, from the review following the Tisdale stowaway case.
“There was no way to deny that that incident was a catalyst for a lot of discussions and concerns,” said Putney, who will oversee the airport officers. “This is the path forward.” Staff researcher Maria David contributed.