13 INVESTIGATES: Airport tragedy anniversary - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Airport tragedy anniversary

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - It was Spring Break 2013.

The Bresette family of seven was making beach memories in Destin, Florida.

On their way back home to Overland Park, Kansas, the Bresette's had a layover at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

That is where the family's Spring Break broke their hearts.

On March 22, 2013, a massive flight display collapsed on the Bresette family, injuring four of them underneath.

Court records show mother Heather Bresette suffered a 'cracked pelvis, head injuries, two ankle fractures and a tibia fracture'.

Samuel Bresette had a 'fractured leg and facial injuries', while young Tyler Bresette endured a 'closed head injury'.

The crushing weight of the sign claimed Luke Bresette's life about two months before his eleventh birthday.

Two weeks after his death, his uncle spoke about the family's loss at a memorial event at Luke's school.

“We are going to have a hole in our hearts for a long time.  It will never completely heal.  We don't want it to heal.  We want to remember Luke,” said Alex Bresette.

The flight display which killed Luke Bresette was so heavy; it took half a dozen men to push it back into place.

The massive unit had been installed just two months earlier during a multi-million dollar airport renovation project.

It turns out it was designed to be 'free standing', without being secured to the wall.

Within days of the fatal sign collapse the airport had all of the new heavy flight displays hauled off.

“They were removed immediately once we had more information, our President and CEO directed that they be removed,” stated Birmingham Airport Authority spokesperson Toni Herrera-Bast.

Now the replacement flight displays are bolted to the floor and this directory map sign warns the public not to climb, play or lean on the display.

Two weeks after the accident, General Contractor Brasfield and Gorrie issued a report to the Birmingham Airport Authority.

In it the company claimed, "The unit was deemed stable as a freestanding unit after its installation by the crews who installed it.  In addition, no stability issues were evident while the flight display monitor was installed into the cabinet or after the full assembly was completed."

Then on June 5, 2013, the Bresette family filed a lawsuit against several contractors involved in the airport renovation project, including Brasfield and Gorrie and Monumental Contracting Service; who was hired to install the flight displays.

The lawsuit argued, “Defendants consciously and deliberately engaged in disregard of the Plaintiffs' safety including willfulness and wantonness in causing the loss of Luke's life."

This past Tuesday, we reached the Bresette's attorney, Tim Dollar, in his Kansas City, Missouri office.

“My clients want to make sure that there is accountability for all the harms and losses that have occurred and to prevent similar wrongs from happening again,” Dollar pointed out.

Now, ten months after the Bresette tragedy, we've learned a display cabinet panel installed during the same airport renovation project came apart.

On January 26th of this year, a large section of the cabinet located behind where you check in at the gate fell on a Southwest Airlines employee.

“It is actually where the airline's printer and other technology is. So they have access to open it and close it and that came off.  Tthe emergency crews were called out, but nobody was actually transported to the hospital or anything,” Bast said.

We also checked with Southwest Airlines.

A spokesperson told us their employee was 'treated and released' and that any injuries they suffered were minor.

Then finally, last month there were new revelations about the installation of the heavy flight display which killed Luke Bresette.

The included new information about what contractors knew about its safety risk and when.

A February court filing included a handful of deposition transcripts.

One revealed that monumental contracting service was so concerned; they refused to finish installing the displays until a safety solution was found.

When crew leader Josh Aaron was asked by an attorney, “As a matter of fact you guys didn't even want to leave the job at quitting time and leave that MUFID standing there to hurt somebody, did you?

Aaron replied, “Correct."

Monumental Contracting Service has since been dismissed from the Bresette's lawsuit.

General Contractor Brasfield and Gorrie sent us a statement, saying, "This was a terrible accident and the Brasfield & Gorrie/BLOC team remains committed to doing what is right for this family and our community. 

This is a sad anniversary."

Meanwhile, the healing process continues for the Bresette family.

They've created a Facebook page titled 'Live Like Luke', where they post memories and updates about how they are honoring Luke's life.

Last October 22, exactly seven months after the accident, the family posted, “That horrible afternoon is engraved in our minds every day. Count your blessings, give them hugs and enjoy every moment.  You may only have them for a short time.  Miss you Luke."

The anniversary of the fatal sign collapse is this Saturday afternoon at 1:30.

The airport will hold a thirty second moment of silence and airport employees will be wearing red, white and blue ribbons in memory of Luke Bresette.

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