Airline fined for serious violations after investigation into worker’s death at airport

Charlotte airport worker?s parents demand justice, call his death ?preventable?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The family of a man who died in a baggage vehicle accident at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2019 spoke at a news conference Tuesday.

The parents of Kendrick Hudson -- Leon Hudson and Erika Vernon -- joined their family’s attorney, Alex Hilliard, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump to demand justice for their son, who died on Aug. 11, 2019.

"He was still in the first quarter of his life,” Leon Hudson said. “He had so much stuff he wanted to do.”

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They said Kendrick Hudson’s death was preventable and are demanding safer working conditions at the airport. They also plan to hold those responsible for their son’s death accountable for their negligence, according to a news release.

After a worker's death at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, an investigation found serious violations by the airline he worked for.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday it hit Piedmont Airlines, a regional subsidiary of American Airlines, with nearly $20,000 dollars in fines for three violations,

OSHA cited the following:

  1. Failure of Piedmont Airlines employees to wear seatbelts
  2. Failure to re-evaluate tug operators every three years
  3. Failure to inspect tugs at the end of each shift

Attorneys who represent Kendrick Hudson’s family said Tuesday they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Charlotte and American Airlines.

“You have to protect your workers. You have to have a safe working environment,” Crump said.

Police said that Kendrick Hudson, 24, was transporting baggage on an airport vehicle called a tug when he made a hard right turn to avoid hitting luggage that had fallen on the tarmac, but the tug hit it and rolled over, landing on him.

Leon Hudson said his son was full of compassion.

"You couldn’t help but to love him if you had just a two-minute conversation,” Leon Hudson said.

Kendrick Hudson worked for Piedmont Airlines. The accident happened near Concourse E, where some blame a lack of proper lighting for workers.

The lawsuit claims in part: The city “failed to timely and reasonably inspect the adequacy of lighting of the tarmac," and that American Airlines, “failed to ensure that the areas surrounding Gate E3 and its neighboring gates were adequately lighted."

OSHA did not fine the airline because of inadequate lighting.

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The airline released the following statement after the OSHA findings:

This afternoon we received information from the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor on the investigation into the events surrounding the death of our team member Kendrick Hudson. Our priority is to ensure the safest possible workplace for our team members.

"We are currently reviewing the information provided and will use it to work with the city of Charlotte, the airport and our labor groups to continually increase the level of workplace safety for our team members. Our thoughts continue to be with Kendrick’s family and friends.”

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Charlotte Douglas conducts lighting study on tarmac

Charlotte Douglas conducted a series of lighting studies, which revealed existing lighting is not sufficient and could be improved.

The airport got estimates for at least four studies dating back to nearly 1 ½ years before Kendrick Hudson’s death.

One estimate was on Aug. 27, 2019 for Concourse E where he died. The estimate was made two weeks after his death.

An airport spokesperson said the Aviation Department will install higher intensity light fixtures at every concourse built before 2018, which will start in March.

Donielle Prophete, vice president for Communications Workers of America Local 3645, said poor visibility at parts of the concourse has led workers to dub it “Death Valley.”

“We feel this is an accident waiting to happen,” said Donielle Prophete, who is a unionized employee with CWA Local 3645. “We don’t know if the lighting contributed to Kendrick’s death or not, but we want to be proactive.”

Kendrick Hudson
Kendrick Hudson (WSOC)

The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the death but has not yet released its findings.

“To see him laying on that bed, knowing that I’ll never see him again,” Leon Hudson said. “I don’t wish that on nobody.”

American Airlines spokeswoman Crystal Byrd said no cause has been determined yet by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.

Crump is best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin, a black teen fatally shot in Florida in 2012, and Michael Brown, a black teen fatally shot by a white police officer in Missouri in 2014.

Kendrick Hudson’s family said the lawsuit is about honoring their son and protecting others.

“I wouldn’t put this on anyone else. This feeling is just unimaginable,” Erika Vernon said.

Statement from Charlotte Douglas International Airport:

“At CLT, the Aviation Department and our partners use layers of safety measures and policies to create a safe working environment.

“The aircraft ramp is a 24/7 worksite with a great deal of activity that requires all employees to adhere to multiple layers of safety. The Aviation Department provides safety layers such as facility lighting, ramp markings and we establish and enforce ramp safety standards. We rely on our partners and individuals using the ramp to maintain situational awareness, adhere to speed limits, utilize vehicle headlights and taillights, wear seatbelts, promptly remove foreign object debris and take various other precautions.

“Before Mr. Hudson’s tragic accident, the Aviation Department hired a consultant to conduct a lighting study. After Mr. Hudson’s death, Piedmont Airlines employees brought forward additional concerns and the Aviation Department expanded the scope of the study. In late 2019, the consultant completed work on all study areas, and we are working to implement them now.

“At this time, there are no findings of the cause of the accident. We anticipate the Department of Labor will release the OSHA findings tomorrow (Jan. 29th). Based on the findings, we will implement any recommendations for the Aviation Department. Our thoughts continue to be with the Hudson family.”

Charlotte Douglas airport workers seek safety improvement after fatal accident

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