This story has been updated to reflect American Airlines’ new statement on the accusations.
After attending her ex-husband’s funeral on Friday, Olimpia Warsaw’s family says the 67-year-old found herself abandoned overnight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
But in a statement released to WGN, American Airlines pushed back against the family’s accusations, instead arguing that video footage shows the woman was only left unattended for about 45 minutes until a family member came to pick her up.
The 67-year-old woman was supposed to fly back home from Chicago to Detroit that day, her son Claude Coltea says, so he made sure to get a wheelchair and porter to make her trip easier. Warsaw has Parkinson’s, diabetes, anxiety and needs a wheelchair, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
But after dropping his mom off at her gate for her American Airlines flight — and then rushing to make a flight of his own — Claude Coltea says her trip was delayed, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
And there began the trouble, he says.
Still wearing clothing from her ex-husband’s funeral, Warsaw was at first offered a hotel room because of her canceled flight, Coltea said, but the porter assigned to her at the Chicago airport said she needed to find her own way there, according to CBS Chicago.
Later that evening, Coltea said, the porter clocked out and left the woman to fend for herself in the airport, The Chicago Tribune wrote.
That was an unacceptable solution for Warsaw, who is “on a bunch of medications (and) has a hard time communicating,” her son Julian Coltea said, according to Local12. She was later found by airport security and put on a flight to her home in Detroit.
Warsaw told The Chicago Sun-Times that she was “scared to death” for the hours she was left sitting alone in her wheelchair at the airport. Her current husband, Ronald Warsaw, said his wife “needs help just moving around, going to the bathroom.”
“It was not fair for them just to leave her without any assistance,” Ronald Warsaw said, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
But in its statement, American Airlines says video footage shows the woman twice using a walker to smoke a cigarette outside, WGN reported.
“We launched an investigation with our Chicago team and the vendor we utilize that provides wheelchair services at O’Hare,” a spokesperson for the airline said, according to USA Today. “After a review of closed-circuit television, Ms. Warsaw was dropped off in the terminal at 12:30 a.m. CT on Dec. 1 and a family member arrived at the airport to pick her up at 1:13 a.m. CT.”
When news first broke of the incident, American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott told The Chicago Tribune in a statement that “while this investigation is still underway, we are already developing a process with our vendor to ensure this does not happen again.” A refund was given for the ticket.
As reported by Local12, the porter is believed to be an employee of the airport. The family hasn’t responded to American Airlines’ newest statement, as noted by WGN9.