Mom Says American Airlines ‘Lost’ Evidence in Son’s In-Flight Death

Jakub Porzycki/Getty Images
Jakub Porzycki/Getty Images

A Bronx mother is suing American Airlines for the wrongful death of her 14-year-old son, which she claims the airline failed to prevent. She also says the airline “lost” crucial evidence in the case.

Melissa Arzu claims American Airlines broke Federal Aviation Administration policy by flying with a faulty defibrillator on board, failing to properly train flight attendants to use the machine, and then failing to provide the device when her lawyer attempted to obtain it, according to a complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas on May 13.

In June 2022, Arzu and her son Kevin Greenidge were flying from Honduras to Miami on their way back home to New York when Greenidge suddenly “experienced a medical emergency,” the complaint says. Greenidge was allegedly unconscious and unresponsive, the complaint continues, and “after some delay,” airline personnel assisted by directing medically-trained passengers to give the boy CPR.

Then, the complaint says, the flight attendants arrived with the defibrillator stocked on board. But they “struggled to figure out how to turn on and operate” the machine, and when they finally got it working, the machine failed to deliver the shock that the suit claims could have saved Greenidge’s life.

“Each time the [defibrillator] gave a ‘clear’ warning for people to step back from Greenidge’s body so that a shock could be administered, a shock was not delivered. Instead, the machine simply kept advising that CPR should be continued,” the complaint reads.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Cancún, Mexico, where Greenidge was rushed to the hospital. There, he was pronounced dead.

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Arzu’s suit claims that before her lawyers filed their complaint, they tried multiple times to inspect the defibrillator that flight personnel used on the boy. But each time, the airline denied their requests, the suit says.

“Based on conversations with American Airlines’ counsel and the airline’s refusal to permit inspection of the AED machine, it appears the AED machine has either been destroyed or put back into service and ‘lost,’” the complaint reads.

Arzu’s lawyers claim that the airline’s misplacement of the device, whether intentional or not, seriously undermines the case laid out by the plaintiff. Among other things, the lawyers wrote, “the missing evidence would provide concrete proof of key details and contested facts,” such as the exact time the machine was turned on and utilized—clarifying delays in medical response—and whether or not the machine actually delivered the shock to Greenidge’s body.

The absence of the machine also prevents investigators from determining whether American broke FAA’s policy by flying without a functioning defibrillator, the complaint says. The FAA has required passenger flights to carry working defibrillators since 2004, and it prohibits flights from taking off if the equipment is missing or faulty.

Representatives for American Airlines declined to comment on the case. “Our thoughts are with Mr. Greenidge’s loved ones,” they said in a statement to The Daily Beast.

Arzu and her lawyers maintain that American Airlines has been negligent and at times antagonistic in their conduct with the heartbroken family ever since Greenidge’s death.

According to the suit, the airline failed to pay Arzu the advance $113,100 it owed her, per the company’s policy, when a passenger dies on board. The airline also fought to move the trial to Texas, where the company is headquartered, instead of in New York, where Arzu lives and had initially filed.

“American’s decision to contest jurisdiction in New York, Kevin’s home, definitely compounds the damage to my client, Ms. Arzu, because she is now forced to litigate her case thousands of miles away,” Crowe told The Daily Beast.

Arzu said the long litigation process had taken a toll on her after the already painful loss of her child. But she refused to give up.

“It made me feel hopeless,” she said in a statement. But, she added, “I want answers from American Airlines. I never want this to happen to a child or family again.”

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