Local News

State Safety Office Probing RDU Death

Posted August 1, 2007 6:02 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2007 12:46 p.m. EDT

— State investigators are now looking into what led to the death of a ground crewman in the ramp area of Raleigh-Durham International Airport Tuesday night.

"We will be piecing (the accident) together and try to reconstruct what happened," said Kevin Beauregard with the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Division.

Lufuluabo Kalonji, 43, a flight service clerk, was killed near Gate C23 sometime before 9 p.m. in an accident involving a plane and a baggage tug, said John Hotard, spokesman for American Eagle Airlines in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fleet service clerks work on the ramp, load baggage and perform similar tasks, he said.

Investigators will look at a number of safety concerns, including whether Kalonji was trained to properly use the baggage tug and whether the equipment malfunctioned, Beauregard said.

He also said there is no definite time frame on how long an investigation could last and that he believes there might have been witnesses working in the area who could help assist investigators.

American Eagle is conducting its own investigation into the accident, an airline spokesman said Wednesday.

Airline employees were shocked by Kalonji's death, but did not wish to speak with WRAL on Wednesday.

Airline President Peter Bowler issued a statement Wednesday morning offering his condolences.

“I know that a tragedy like this affects every member of the Eagle family and that our hearts go out to the Kalonji family, friends, and to our Eagle colleagues in Raleigh-Durham,” Bowler said.

Kalonji is survived by his wife and a young daughter.

American Eagle established a fund for the family at the American Airlines Federal Credit Union. Donations can be sent to American Airlines Federal Credit Union, Attention: Kalonji Family Fund, P.O. Box 155489, Fort Worth, TX 76155-0489.

RDU International spokeswoman Colleen Fischvogt said Tuesday's accident was rare at RDU. The last fatal accident there was about 10 years ago and involved a construction worker, she said.

Contact with objects or equipment is the second-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2005, 5,700 workers died on the job. Forty-three percent of those deaths were related to transportation incidents.