Woman dies after 'falling from wheelchair on plane because staff refused to help'
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Featured Image Credit: GoFundMe
A disabled woman has died 11 months after falling from her wheelchair while boarding a plane.
In February 2022, Gaby Assouline was boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale Airport heading for Denver so she could visit her sister.
The family of the 25-year-old say her electric wheelchair hit a junction in the jet bridge which caused her to be thrown from the chair.
She was refused proper help by airline staff, he family claim. The accident led to Gaby landing on her head and she suffered a broken neck and damaged her spinal cord.
Gaby was then paralysed from the neck down and was left unable to speak.
She fought for her life in hospital for 11 months, but she sadly passed away in January this year.
“It’s with a heavy heart and profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our precious daughter and sister Gabrielle on Sunday, January 22,” her family confirmed via her GoFundMe page.
“Gaby's life was tragically interrupted 11 months ago but she put up the greatest fight with grace, friends, laughter and the strong belief that she would leave the hospital and come home very soon.
“Unfortunately, complications robbed Gaby of that ending.”
The family filed a lawsuit in March last year, alleging that the airline and its contractor were careless and refused to provide Gabywith proper help when boarding the flight.
A spokesperson from Southwest Airlines tells Tyla: "Southwest offers its sincere condolences to Ms. Assouline’s family, friends and all whose lives she touched.
"We have a more than 51-year commitment to caring for our People and Customers and remain engaged with the parties involved.
At age 12, Gaby was diagnosed with Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) which sees muscle tissue turns to bone, limiting her mobility with each flare up. It's a rare a genetic disorder which made it difficult for her to walk long distances.
After the accident, Gaby's family wrote on her GoFundMe page that she was 'presenting as a quadriplegic who is on a ventilator'.
They added: "She can’t speak because has a tube down her throat, and she has no movement below her neck. The fear and pain she is showing in her eyes when she wakes up in those brief moments of clarity is too much to bear.
"She remains in the hospital. Since her injury, she has developed an arrhythmia that has caused her heart to stop half a dozen times in a week."
Two weeks before Gaby’s death, her father Felix revealed that her condition was worsening.
“Now more than ever, Gaby needs our prayers like never before. We were given some heart wrenching news about her condition that we never expected,” he posted on 9 January.