HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) –Homeowners weren’t the only victims of the freak weekend storm — so were hundreds of passengers on stranded flights.
For one disabled man from Staten Island, being stuck on a plane for nine hours was more than an inconvenience, it was a matter of life and death.
Saturday afternoon, JetBlue flight 504 was trying to land at Newark Liberty Airport, but technical problems forced it to be diverted to Hartford’s Bradley International Airport.
Jimmy Brown, of Huguenot, who’s been in a wheelchair since diving into shallow water seven years ago, says hours went by and nothing happened.
“Four, five, six hours. People were getting crazy,” Brown told CBS 2’s Don Dahler.
And still, they sat. The plane ran out of food, water, then the lavatories were locked shut. But for Brown, not using the bathroom presented a health risk of potential infection, or worse.
His wife, Francine, sent a text to her family, asking that they save them. Finally, Jimmy simply had to go.
“You’re throwing blankets over your head and me and her under the blanket. Got a clip over here, I’m unbuttoning my pants. I have to cath right in my chair. It’s a little degrading,” Brown said.
“I’m very upset. I’m very shaken up by it. Difficult,” said Brown’s wife, Francine.
The pilot told air traffic control he had a paraplegic on board and begged for help.
“Look, you know, we can’t seem to get any help from our own company. I apologize for this, but is there any way you can get a tug and a tow bar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something. I don’t care — take us anywhere,” the pilot pleaded.
But that never happened. Finally nine hours after landing, firefighters came on board, carried him down the stairs and into the airport.
“I don’t see why that couldn’t have been done hours before,” Brown said. “Why wait until 9 or 10 o’clock at night?”
On Monday, JetBlue released a statement, which says in part “We apologize to the customers impacted by this confluence of events, as it remains JetBlue’s responsibility to not simply provide safe and secure travel, but a comfortable experience as well.”
JetBlue declined an interview with CBS 2, but said in a statement that weather problems “made refueling and … deplaning difficult.”
Bradley International Airport said handling 23 diverted planes stretched their resources to the limit. The Department of Transportation is investigating.
JetBlue could be fined $27,000 per passenger for failing to follow the passenger bill of rights.
Does the prospect of being stuck on a plane keep you from flying? Sound off in our comments section below…