An elderly Chinese couple has been hospitalized with serious head trauma after getting hit by a pick-up truck when American Airlines (AA) diverted their flight to Baltimore, the U.S. Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland, local media reported on Wednesday.
The Chinese Embassy in the United States, which was informed by local police of the incident early Saturday, has arranged helping hands for the couple who are now treated in a hospital in Baltimore and their injuries are not life threatening, according to a report by New York-based Chinese newspaper Qiao Bao.
The couple's ordeal was first reported by fellow passenger Stefani Kuo on her Facebook account on Saturday. And many netizens have left their comments criticizing the U.S. airlines' poor service.
Kuo deleted the post the following day out of privacy concerns for the family of the injured couple, who did not want their names to be released. Yet the story has caught the attention of U.S. media including the Washington Post, NextShark, and The Voice of Global Asians.
The couple's nightmarish travel began on Friday, when their scheduled AA flight from Minneapolis in the midwestern U.S. state of Minnesota to New York was diverted at the last minute to Baltimore.
Upon arrival, AA instructed all the passengers to get onto a bathroom-less bus to New York. Yet the company failed to inform all the passengers about details like where the buses were located, their travel time, and where they were going, according to Kuo's 2,500-word narration.
"Ten hours into the bus ride, we had only traveled 30 miles. Two trucks had flipped over the bridge because of winds, so all the bridges were closed. We were stuck in traffic and not moving a single inch. At this point, a passenger went up to the bus driver to ask what was going on, and we were informed, by a PASSENGER that we were turning around and going back to the BWI airport at Baltimore, MD," wrote Kuo, who got to know the Chinese couple speaking no English.
The bus eventually made a stop at a McDonald's parking lot where the couple, who was to visit their son in New York, got off for food and were struck by an oncoming vehicle.
"When I ran back to the bus, I was in hysterics. I was crying and blurted out the news. The bus was confused, the bus driver was shocked. But then we left. No one contacted American Airlines. The bus just picked up and drove away, back to the BWI airport. I called the hospitals in Baltimore. I finally got in contact with Bayview hospital where I tracked the couple down," Kuo recounted.
"When we got off, their checked baggage was just left on the sidewalk. No one took care of it, so I did. I took all of their belongings along with mine and went into the airport where I tried for fifteen minutes to tell someone, 'two of your passengers were run over by a truck,'" she said.
"I was told I would be given a ride to the hospital but would have no way back. I was told they had an interpreter at the hospital present. I was told to take a train instead of a flight out," she added.
Finally Kuo located the couple in the hospital. The husband and wife were put in separate rooms in the Emergency Room unit. There was no interpreter present in the room, and no one was helping the couple either.
The husband, who kept asking where his wife was, had not been informed about his condition or even his wife's. The hospital did not even identify them.
Kuo spent 40 minutes helping the doctors by translating for the husband, telling them where the pain was located as well as the details of their injuries.
"The husband had suffered severe fractures to his spine and neck and the wife had been hit straight in the head and was unconscious. She was going to need eye surgery among other procedures," said Kuo.
"I left them their belongings, left my phone number as the primary contact, and told them to call me if they needed any help with translation or anything. American Airlines had not contacted them or sent anyone," she added.
Kuo left the hospital at around 4:00 a.m. local time (GMT 0900) on Saturday. She gave her information to the couple's son after they spoke on the phone.
"American Airlines had told them nothing and had not even attempted to locate them. Why would they have? They had no idea where their passengers were," said Kuo.
Kuo got back home in New York on Saturday afternoon. She had been in direct contact with the Bayview hospital and the couple's son for the 24 hours after the accident. At the time, American Airlines still failed to show any signs of concern by contacting either her or the couple.