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Woman dies after being thrown from wheelchair on Southwest Airlines walkway

Gaby Assouline’s family is suing Southwest Airlines over the fall that led to her death

Abe Asher
Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:08 GMT
Gaby Assouline
Gaby Assouline (GoFund Me)

Nearly a year after suffering a fall at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that forced her to use a ventilator, Gaby Assouline died last week. She was 25 years old.

Ms Assouline’s family blames Southwest Airlines for the fall they believe caused her death and has sued the airline for damages.

According to their lawsuit, Ms Assouline was travelling down the jet bridge to board a Southwest flight when her electric wheelchair hit a junction that caused her to be thrown from her chair. The resulting fall left Ms Assouline paralysed and in need of the ventilator.

Per the lawsuit, Southwest and its contractor G2 Secure Staff could have prevented Ms Assouline’s accident had they provided her with the necessary wheelchair assistance or instruction or warned her or staff members about potential issues navigating the walkway.

Southwest Airlines issued a statement in the wake of the news of Ms Assouline’s death on Tuesday.

“Southwest offers its sincere condolences to Ms Assouline’s family, friends and all whose lives she touched,” the statement reads. “We have a more than 51-year commitment to caring for our people and customers and remain engaged with the parties involved.”

Ms Assouline was supposed to be travelling on a flight to Denver to visit her sister and was not being accompanied by a parent. Her mother, Sandra Assouline, received permission to accompany Ms Assouline through the airport’s security checkpoint and drop her off at the gate.

WPLG reported that Ms Assouline was diagnosed with a rare genetic order called Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva when she was 12 years old that made it challenging for her to walk long distances, which was why she required the use of the wheelchair in the airport.

Following the accident, Ms Assouline’s family set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her medical bills. As of Tuesday, that page had received donations of more than $137,000. On January 24, Sandra Assouline posted an update to share that Ms Assouline had died.

“Gaby’s life was tragically interrupted 11 months ago but she put up the greatest fight with grace, friends, laughter and the strong belief that she would leave the hospital and come home very soon,” the update reads. “Unfortunately, complications robbed Gaby of that ending. Heaven just received the most beautiful, sweetest, innocent and precious soul!”

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