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How? Double amputee forced to crawl floor after United Airlines takes scooter batteries

Stearn Hodge
Pictured, double amputee, Stearn Hodge.
Stearn Hodge
Pictured, double amputee, Stearn Hodge.

Stearn Hodge: A Canadian double amputee is seeking damages after being forced to crawl floor after airport security and United Airlines took away his scooter batteries.

A double amputee passenger is seeking damages after claiming he was forced to crawl on the floor of his hotel room during his vacation because officials at Canada’s Calgary International Airport confiscated the batteries to his portable scooter. He is seeking up to $20,000 in damages, the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, for each count of pain and suffering

Stearn Hodge, 68, was traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Calgary, Alberta, with his wife for their 43rd wedding anniversary in February 2017, when the incident happened.

Hodge, who lost his left arm and right leg in a work accident in 1984, CBC reported, uses his portable scooter to get around.

However, when Hodge, a frequent traveler, got to the airport, an agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) told the man he would not be able to bring his $2,000 lithium-ion batteries his scooter requires on the plane because of fire concerns.

Stearn Hodge denied access despite prior approval from United Airlines:

Lithium-ion batteries have been banned from being stored in checked bags on planes because of their fire-risk, but Hodge had documents by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) allowing him to travel with them because of his disability.

When Hodge tried to show his documentation to CATSA, he was reportedly ignored. 

But matters continued to get grimmer.

A United Airlines gate agent also came to security and sided with the CATSA official, despite Hodge’s explanation that the airline had approved his batteries earlier.

‘I still remember the CATSA agent saying, ‘Well, you could get a wheelchair.’ How’s a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair?’ asked Hodge, CBC reported. ‘How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn’t even have to come up.’

Hodge also noted his wife had undergone cancer treatment before their trip and was not able to push him in a wheelchair.

Stearn Hodge
Pictured, double amputee, Stearn Hodge.

Stearn Hodge: ‘They’re taking my legs — and not only that, my dignity’. 

Also limiting Hodge’s mobility is the fact that while Hodge can wear a prosthetic leg, the double amputee is only able to wear the device for short periods because of the risk of infection according to CBC.

Once the couple arrived at their destination, Hodge said it was miserable.

‘Having to crawl across the floor in front of my wife is the most humiliating thing that I can think of,’ said Hodge to CBC. ‘It unmasks how real my disability is … I haven’t been the same since.’

‘An anniversary is supposed to be all about remembering how you fell in love … and keeping that magic alive,’ he said. ‘And those things were denied. I’m crawling across the floor and it is pathetic.’

‘They’re taking my legs — and not only that, my dignity,’ Hodge reiterated.

Once Hodge and his wife returned to Canada, Hodge received an email from United Airlines in response to his complaint. According to the email, a resolution official with the airline, Tatricia Orija, wrote, ‘it appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements,’ CBC reported.

But there’s more.

The email also offered Hodge and his wife an $800 travel certificate.

‘Inconvenience is when it rains on your holiday,’ Hodge said. ‘This was a … life-changing moment for me and my wife.’

As a result of pending litigation, the airliner has declined to publicly address the incident.

Hodge has hired a lawyer and is looking to have the Canadian Human Rights Commission hear the case in Federal Court.