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Lawsuits & Litigation

First Family Lawsuit over Fort Lauderdale International Airport Shooting is Filed

— January 20, 2018

The family of a woman killed in the 2017 Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting is suing Delta, saying the passenger responsible for a small massacre should never have been allowed access to a firearm.

Esteban Santiago, writes the Sun-Sentinel, was unruly and argumentative. In the air and on the way to Florida, Santiago argued with his fellow passengers. He was unruly, disruptive, and seemed ready for violence.

After touching down and making his way to baggage claim, Santiago retrieved a gun from his checked luggage. Taking it to a nearby bathroom, he loaded the weapon, walked out and started shooting. Five people were killed and dozens were injured.

According to attorney David Di Pietro, who’s representing the surviving relatives of Olga Woltering, Santiago’s behavior should have raised red flags.

Image via Sun-Sentinel.

“Santiago was not the typical passenger, and Delta ignored the warning signs: a young male, traveling alone, on a one-way flight, with no luggage other than his firearm, arriving for a domestic flight four hours early,” said Di Pietro.

Delta didn’t offer a comment on the lawsuit, which seems to have a rather strange rationale. While the massacre was undoubtedly tragic, Di Pietro’s argument – at least what of it was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel – comes across as mildly illogical. Of Delta’s supposed warning signs, only one – Santiago’s lack of luggage aside from a firearm – seems sufficiently suspicious to justify any sort of intervention.

The supposition that single male travelers arriving early for a flight may be a “red flag” otherwise edges “offensive.”

Woltering’s family, which filed the suit last week in Broward County Circuit Court, names four entities as defendants, including Delta, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the Broward County Commission, which is responsible for airport operations. The suit, writes the Sun-Sentinel, is the first to be filed by a victim’s family in connection to the 2017 shooting.

Perhaps more relevant than Santiago being a solo male traveler, Di Pietro points out that the killer’s behavior en route to Fort Lauderdale should have caused alarm at Delta.

In the air, Santiago was “disruptive and unruly, and started arguments with other passengers, all in the presence of Delta’s flight crew. Yet when he landed, his weapon was returned to him as if nothing had happened.”

Di Pietro says that, while some states allow passengers to be armed, certain precautions need to be put in place.

“Our investigation found that after the shooting, Delta hired off-duty deputies to escort arriving passengers with firearms out of the airport,” he said.

While the lawsuit doesn’t give any particular figure as an award, Di Pietro says the family will ask a jury for damages related to “pain and suffering.”


Family sues over woman’s death in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

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