The family of Delvonte Tisdale, whom authorities said hid in the wheel well of an airplane in North Carolina before falling from the sky over Milton, has hired a Florida law firm to pursue legal claims against those they hold responsible for his death, according to a press release issued by the firm today.
“The evidence in this case makes it quite clear which party is at fault, and the family has every intention of pursuing legal action of the highest order,” attorney Christopher Chestnut said in a statement released by a public relations firm.
He added that “we intend to seek justice for a child who, although culpable for making irresponsible and immature decisions representative of his age, should never have successfully gained access to that airplane. Had airport security been up to par, he would be alive and well with his family today.”
The massively injured body of the 16-year-old Tisdale was found in a quiet subdivision in Milton in November. Milton police initially suggested that Tisdale was murdered or the victim of some other kind of violence, but former Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating said last month that Tisdale stowed away on a USAirways flight in Charlotte.
Keating, who is now in Congress, said last month that it was not clear to criminal investigators how the teen was able to evade security measures at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He urged federal transportation agencies to investigate and report publicly on their findings.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration both publicly committed to assisting in any investigation. The Charlotte airport is owned by the city and has also agreed to work with the federal agencies and with its municipal police to see if it can be determined how Tisdale apparently was able to evade security.
Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman, said today the agency could not comment because Tisdale’s relatives now have a lawyer and the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Davis also referred to a TSA statement issued last month that said the airport was responsible for keeping people out of secure areas on the airport grounds.
In the press statement, the Florida attorney said the Tisdale incident raises questions about national security. He also claimed that the family had been asked by unidentified public officials to hold off announcing the launch of a civil litigation until air travel had ended for the Rev. Martin Luther King holiday.
“While we agreed with authorities’ request to hold on announcing this case until after the busy holiday travel season to avoid inciting public outrage, panic and possible logistical concerns during this critical period for the airline industry, it’s now time this story be told and all facets of it explored - including the considerable ominous implications to our national security at large,’’ said Chestnut, whose office is in Gainesville, Fla.
Charlotte’s mayor’s office referred questions about the city’s own inquiry to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. A call from the police public affairs unit was not immediately returned.
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