(CBS) — A trip to O’Hare International Airport left a young woman paralyzed after a horrific accident involving a shelter commonly used for weather protection. Travelers may still be in danger.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports.
The structures were missing what could be critical hardware to help secure these massive shelters, which pedestrians use to stay out of the bad weather while at O’Hare.
Tierney Darden and her family tried to take cover during heavy winds and storms that swept in Aug. 2, says her father, David Darden. The shelter, with rusted brackets and bolts missing, blew over and crashed on top of the 24-year-old dancer, pinning her to ground.
“She couldn’t feel her legs, couldn’t move her legs, and she knew it,” he says. “She was scared.”
Tierney Darden’s mother and sister also were hurt, but Tierney’s injury was the worst. She had a severed spinal cord. She is paralyzed from the waist down permanently, David Darden says.
The shelter that injured her daughter had been missing some bolts to secure it, he says.
Since the accident, the 2 Investigators have been inspecting the pedestrian shelters located in the arrival lanes of O’Hare Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and uncovered alarming safety problems from bolts missing or not secured; there also were plenty of corroded parts and missing or broken brackets. One shelter was missing 22 bolts that are supposed to connect it to the ground and eight more screws in various spots that connect to the structure itself. Also, an entire mounting plate was missing.
“These nuts and bolts are everything to these shelters,” says Darden family attorney Jeff Kroll. “If there was any kind of proper inspection going on by the Department of Aviation, if there was any kind of proper maintenance protocol, this would have never happened.”
CBS 2 informed an airport worker of some of the problems and he replied: “It’s rusted, I can see that. All right, I’ll have to let somebody know.”
Another worker, this one inside an airport operations van, showed up and said all the shelters will be taken down.
That is too late for Tierney Darden.
“She won’t be able to dance using her legs again,” says David Darden, who describes what hurts the most: “Seeing her there, lying there, knowing she’s going through this, in that much pain and anguish.”
As of Thursday night, only a few shelters had been removed. The city did not respond to various requests for comment and for documentation and video of Darden’s accident.
Kroll filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the Darden family Thursday night.