The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 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.”
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.”
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.
Scripps News has reached out to Piedmont Airlines for its reaction.