FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CN) – A man who plunged off a jet bridge in the panic following the January mass shooting at a Fort Lauderdale airport wants to hold United Airlines and its employee liable for the fall.
In a bill of discovery filed in Broward County court, Gurbuz Dolu says he blames United Airlines for his injuries from falling off a jet bridge amid mayhem generated by unconfirmed reports of a second shooter on the loose after the Jan. 6 attack at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Dolu claims a United Airlines employee unlocked the jet bridge door and directed him and other fleeing people towards it. There “was nothing on the other side” of the door, and Dolu tumbled off the detached bridge, onto the tarmac thirteen feet below, he says.
The bill of discovery seeks a court order directing United Airlines to identify the employee, so that Dolu can name him in a planned negligence lawsuit.
“Plaintiff intends to bring a suit for damages, including a count for negligence, against United and in an individual capacity, John Doe, the unidentified employee,” the April 24 bill of discovery states.
Five people died and several others were injured in the shooting.
The shooter, Army veteran Esteban Santiago Ruiz, had arrived in the Fort Lauderdale airport from Anchorage, Alaska, with a gun legally checked-in in a carrying case, according to police statements. He picked up his luggage, retrieved his firearm and began gunning people down in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, according to his alleged confession.
Santiago purportedly surrendered to police, with his gun out of ammunition. Then, unverified rumors of a second shooter triggered panic across the airport and led law enforcement to lock down the facility for several hours as hundreds of passengers were stranded on the tarmac.
Dolu, who was at the airport waiting to fly out to New Jersey, described the melee that ensued in Terminal 1 during the second-shooter scare.
“Between approximately 2:10 and 2:30 pm, Plaintiff was in the center of the hallway in Terminal One, near Gate C3, when he noticed Transportation Security Administration personnel running in his direction, screaming at people to run,” the pleading reads. “Plaintiff quickly moved behind the counter located at Gate C3. A few moments later, John Doe, a local employee of United, approached the entrance to Gate C3.”
That’s when Dolu and others were herded towards the jetway door-to-nowhere, causing Dolu to tumble onto the tarmac, he says.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a hub for Spirit Airlines. It handles more than 20 million passengers a year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Santiago, the sole suspect in the shooting, was arrested and charged on 22 federal counts. He entered an initial plea of not guilty on Jan. 30.
The Alaska resident was allowed to fly with his gun in his checked-in luggage despite having been placed in a mental health facility in Nov. 2016 based on disturbing statements he allegedly made to the FBI.
During the November encounter, Santiago walked into an Anchorage FBI office, where he professed that he had been subjected to U.S. government mind control, the FBI said. He also expressed “terroristic [sic] thoughts” and claimed he was being influenced by the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley. He was turned over to local law enforcement and placed in a mental health facility, and his gun, the one he allegedly later used in the airport shooting, was temporarily confiscated.
He was able to reclaim the gun from the Anchorage Police Department in Dec. 2016 (roughly a month before the airport shooting) because he was not adjudicated as mentally ill, said Karen Loeffler, then-U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska.