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Airline faces OSHA fine after worker was 'ingested' into jet engine

A mom of three was sucked into an airplane engine at an Alabama airport. Federal officials said the airline could have prevented her death.
Airline faces OSHA fine after worker was 'ingested' into jet engine
Posted at 9:34 AM, Jun 22, 2023

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has claimed Piedmont Airlines failed to follow proper procedures when a 34-year-old customer service employee got fatally ingested into an airplane's engine. 

Union officials named Courtney Edwards as the 34-year-old who died in the incident Dec. 31, 2022, at the Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama.

The Department of Labor said an investigation found that, as the wing walker on a ground crew placed cones around an Embraer E75 plane, suction near one of the plane’s engines pulled Edwards in.

The airline faces a proposed fine of $15,625. 

OSHA said Piedmont Airlines faces a "serious violation for exposing ground crew workers to ingestion hazards while performing aircraft marshaling, wing-walking and baggage-handling tasks."

“Proper training and enforcement of safety procedures could have prevented this tragedy,” said OSHA Area Director Jose A. Gonzalez. “This incident is a tragic reminder that safety measures must be in place even for a routine assignment,” he said.

Piedmont Airlines told Scripps News in a statement, “We have reviewed OSHA's findings and contest the issued citation. Our current policies and procedures at Piedmont are compliant with FAA requirements and actively address all the concerns outlined in the citation." 

The statement said, "Safety remains our top priority and we remain committed to working with the CWA, and all unions representing our team members, to ensure our team members work in a safe environment and receive the necessary training and resources to ensure their safety while performing their job duties every day.”

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The Communication Workers of America said Edwards was a valued member of the union and a devoted mom to three children. 

"It is clear that the willingness of CWA members to come forward to speak to the OSHA inspectors and the work of union officers, including CWA Local 3645 President Donielle Prophete, were essential in providing the documentation needed for this finding," the union said in a statement. 

"Despite the small penalty, it is likely Piedmont will contest the decision, but CWA will continue to fight for Courtney Edwards, her family, and the safety of all airline workers, who should never fear for their lives on the job," the statement read. 

Piedmont Airlines is part of the American Airlines Group. The airline operates nearly 400 daily departures out of 55 airports across the U.S. 

The company said it has about 10,000 employees.

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