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Parents Blame Airport|for Stowaway’s Death

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) - A teenager stowed away in the wheel well of a US airways jet and fell to his death over Massachusetts, and his family blames the city of Charlotte, its airport and the airline for it.

Anthony Tisdale and Jonette Washington, parents of the late Delvonte Tisdale, sued the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, US Airways and its subsidiary America West Airlines, in Mecklenburg County Court.

Delvonte was 16 and "actively involved" in his high school's Air Force ROTC program when he stowed away on the plane in Charlotte on Nov. 14, 2010, then fell to his death over Milton, Mass., his parents say.

They say the defendants should have had better security to stop their son from getting onto the runway and into the wheel well of the plane.

"The defendants jointly, concurrently and negligently failed to provide security and outlook observation," the parents say. "Defendants jointly, concurrently and negligently failed to follow applicable guidelines, procedures, and inspect checkpoints to ensure children, like decedent, could not gain access to restricted areas, including, but not limited to, the tarmac, airplanes and their wheel wells."

They also claim that the defendants "jointly, concurrently and negligently failed to warn decedent of the dangers associated with gaining access to an area which otherwise was required to be restricted by defendants and/or the dangers associated with boarding a plane as a passenger in the wheel well of an airplane."

According to newspaper reports, Delvonte's body was discovered at about 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2010, in Milton, a suburb of Boston.

His body was so badly damaged that an autopsy could not determine the cause of death. The North Mecklenburg High School sophomore was identified from a hall pass found in his pocket.

Based in part on a handprint in grease found inside the wheel well of the Boeing 737 that had taken off in Charlotte, authorities later concluded that Tisdale had snuck onto the grounds of the nation's 11th-busiest airport and secreted himself in the wheel well of Boston-bound US Airways flight 1176.

Tisdale's death led to a security review of the airport that found the onsite police force was inadequate to properly monitor the facility, local media reported.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced this month that it was absorbing the airport police in a move to beef up security.

Tisdale's parents seek more than $10,000 in damages for the "extreme pain and suffering" Delvonte experienced before his death, funeral expenses, compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death.

Their lead counsel is Dexter Benoit of Charlotte.

Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said in a statement: "The city remains saddened by the death of Delvonte Tisdale and wishes to express sympathy for his family. However, I don't see how the city or the airport could or should be held legally liable for Mr. Tisdale's decisions and actions."

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