Radio Sandwell Miscellanea

Too FAT to fly: Sick American woman dies after exclusion

2012-12-02 04:46:42

A U.S woman died on holiday in Hungary after being refused a seat on three flights back to New York because she was too heavy to fly, according to her husband.

Vilma Soltesz, 56, from New York, had weighed about 425lbs (30 stone 5llbs), had only one leg and used a wheelchair.

She died from health complications in Hungary nine days after she was kicked off the first of three flights and now her death could now be the cause of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the airlines.

On September 17, she had travelled with her husband Janos to Hungary to stay in their holiday home, a trip they made every year, reported the New York Post.

Before the journey, their travel agent informed Delta of Mrs Soltesz's condition and they planned to return on October 15 so Mrs Soltesz could continue her medical treatment for her illness - a combination of kidney disease and diabetes.

Mr Soltesz said his wife was already seated on the plane when they were asked to leave by KLM.

'They tried to fit her into the back of the plane, but they didn’t have an extension to secure her,' he said.

She had gained weight due to her illness and the airline said it did not have a seat-belt extender for her, Mr Soltesz said.

He was also told the seat back could not take his wife’s weight.

After leaving the airplane, the couple waited in the airport for several hours and then were told to drive five hours to Prague for a Delta plane that could accommodate her as a disabled person.

But in Prague, Delta staff told the couple the airline's plastic wheelchair could not hold her weight and the staff also couldn't put her on the sky-lift elevator.

The couple, who were born in Hungary, were forced to return to their holiday home until their New York travel agent managed to get them on an October 22 Lufthansa flight to New York via Frankfurt, which would be able to accommodate her size.

Although a local fire department were brought in to help move Mrs Soltesz into three seats assigned to her, they could not lift her out of the wheelchair.

After half an hour of trying to move her, the captain asked them to leave the plane.

'We had 140 passengers on board, and they had connections and needed to travel,' said Lufthansa spokesman Nils Haupt.

'The question was never the seat belt. The question was the mobility of the passenger.'
But when they returned to their holiday home again to make alternative arrangement Mrs Soltesz became more poorly.

The couple did not opt to see a doctor in Hungary as they felt the staff would not be familiar with her medical needs, and two days later Mrs Soltesz died and she was buried in Hungary.

Now attorney Holly Ostrov Ronai, who is considering a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the airlines accusing them of violating laws protecting the disabled.

'KLM is deeply saddened by the death of Mrs. Vilma Soltesz and would like to offer its heartfelt condolences to her family. We have outlined the facts below: it appeared on the passenger's return that it was not physically possible for her to board the aircraft, despite every effort made by KLM to this end. A seat or belt extender did not offer a solution either,' said a KLM spokesperson.

'Subsequently, KLM and it's partners Delta and Air France did it's utmost to find an alternative in the two days that followed. The passenger also took the initiative herself to approach her ticket agent to look for alternatives with other airlines, but we cannot of course comment on the content and/or period in question.'

'After the operating carrier in Budapest was physically unable to board Mrs. Soltesz on its flight, and despite a determined good-faith effort by Delta in Prague, we were also physically unable to board her on our aircraft,' said Delta spokesman Russel Cason to the New York Post.


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