The mother of Delvonte Tisdale will hold a memorial service for her son Friday – one week after Massachusetts authorities said the North Carolina teen died as the result of stowing away on a commercial jet, and that his body plummeted to the ground as it passed over Milton.
In a telephone interview from her home in Baltimore today, Jonette Washington said she remains perplexed by her son’s motivation. She also said the evidence collected by investigators seems to support their theory that her son died after boarding the left wheel well of a Boeing 737 at the Charlotte airport Nov. 15.
"When things first happened, my first instinct was it can’t be true," Washington said today. "He wouldn’t do anything like that. He has no reason to do anything like that. All he had to do was pick up the phone and say 'Mommy I’m ready to come home and I'd go get him.' "
Washington said Delvonte, along with two younger siblings, left Baltimore for North Carolina about 18 months ago so they could live with their father, Anthony Tisdale. They wanted to get to know their father after years of living with their mother, Washington said.
"They went to be with him, stay with him for a while," she said. "They wanted to spend time with him."
The children's relationship with their father was good, as far Washington knew, she said. Washington said it was tense on occasion because Anthony Tisdale, a caterer, was strict and set tougher rules than their mother did.
But Washington said she never heard of any problems serious enough that would lead her son to take the drastic step of running away from his Charlotte home and stowing aboard an aircraft.
On Friday, Washington will hold a small vigil at her Baltimore home, where she will gather with close friends and family and tell stories about her 16-year-old son.
She said she will make his favorite dish, fried chicken and potatoes, and put out a yellowcake with white icing. A picture of Delvonte in his ROTC uniform will be iced on to the cake.
"Video games and ROTC were his life," Washington said. "That’s what he loved to do."
Last Friday, Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating said an investigation by State Police and Milton police led to the conclusion that Tisdale had breached security at the Charlotte airport, stowed inside the wheel well, and died as a result.
Keating called on the federal Transportation Security Administration and the airport operator, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to jointly investigate Tisdale’s actions, and how he became the first person since 1972 to stow aboard a US-originated flight.
The operator of the Charlotte airport has not returned repeated calls from the Globe seeking comment on Keating’s revelations.
In a statement released today, the TSA said that airport management is responsible for ground security in Charlotte and elsewhere in the United States.
"Commercial airports are required to follow an approved Airport Security Program that includes procedures to restrict access to secure areas. Airports are responsible for day-to-day enforcement of measures contained in these plans and are regularly inspected by TSA to ensure compliance,’’ the TSA said in the statement.
“’We will work with the airport, which is responsible for perimeter and access control security, to conduct a thorough investigation based on the facts and information provided by law enforcement,’’ the statement said. “We will not comment on details of the investigation while it is ongoing.’’
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