FARGO — It’s safe to say many people would like to travel the world and see the sights at some point in their life. But for those with disabilities, going on an airplane is not that easy.
That was the case for one Moorhead family who said their trip out of state was broken by poor handling from the airline.
For Addie Loerzel, her power wheelchair, named Sunflower, is more then just any old wheelchair.
“It’s awesome; I can do anything with this thing” she said.
Some may remember 17-year-old Addie from her work with Addie’s Royal Cupcake stand, through which she helps the Sunshine Foundation make dreams come true for those with disabilities.
Over the holiday weekend, it was time for Addie to have one of her dreams come true and be part of the American Women of Service Pageant in Maine.
“This trip was really special to us. It was an opportunity for Addie to be in a pageant, to be able to wheel around on stage, to visit with judges and show people what she really can do,” said Marisa Loerzel, Addie’s mother.
The dream quickly turned into a nightmare when their Delta flight landed in Maine.
“We were led to the baggage office, and that’s where we found her wheelchair sitting in a bunch of pieces,” Marisa Loerzel said.
The powered chair that costs well over $100,000 was damaged twice during the trip. Leaving parts on the floor, the power mechanism torn off, and a family trip in shambles.
“This trip was suppose to be joyous, that was suppose to be fun. And we had this cloud over our head the whole time because of this incident,” Marisa Loerzel said.
The sad reality is Addie isn’t the first person to have her wheelchair damaged by an airline. While the U.S. Department of Transportation says less then 2% of wheelchairs break during flights, even that number is too high for those who rely on that equipment.
“There is a population of people with disabilities that won’t travel, that refuse to get on an airplane because they live in fear of their devices being damaged,” Marisa Loerzel said. “They are missing out on cruises, adventure, sight-seeing because of fear.”
The same fear that Addie is feeling.
“I don’t think I ever want to travel on an airplane with this wheelchair again, because you never know what might happen to it next,” she said.
Addie’s powered wheelchair cannot be checked fully for damage until July 10. They are hoping Delta will pay for the repairs, but they have not heard from the airline since the incident.
“I want airlines and the people that handle these power devices to understand that there is a person behind this chair, and that person is depending on that chair for their life when they get to the destination,” Marisa Loerzel said.