Husband of Alzheimer's patient who disappeared at Dallas airport sues airline

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) -- The husband of a 70-year-old Alzheimer's patient who vanished while changing planes at a Texas airport in December has sued American Airlines for $10 million.

Joe Dabney's lawsuit, filed Thursday, blames the airline for gross negligence and incompetence in the disappearance of Margie Dabney, who hasn't been seen since Dec. 5.

''We believe there's more to this story,'' attorney Bruce South said. ''It's completely absurd for them to lose someone like this.''

The Bakersfield couple was headed from Indianapolis to Los Angeles when they stopped at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to change planes.

Margie Dabney was so disoriented she had tried to open a plane door in flight. The Dallas airport was notified of her condition, but an attendant who was supposed to help her went to the wrong gate, South said.

Joe Dabney recently had undergone hip surgery and was being escorted to a restroom when his wife apparently wandered away. The airline contacted police over an hour later.

Airline officials have said the attendant may not have realized he was responsible for both Dabneys, or that the woman had Alzheimer's.

Spokesman Marty Heires said the airline had not seen the lawsuit and declined comment on it. He said the company is cooperating with investigators and had hired a private investigator and offered a $10,000 reward for information on Dabney's whereabouts.

''We have been very active in trying to find out exactly what happened to Mrs. Dabney. Unfortunately, there are just a lot of unanswered questions that remain,'' Heires said. ''Obviously, it's a very tragic situation.''

Joe Dabney said he hoped the lawsuit would refocus attention on his missing wife. He also asked people to boycott American.

In a meeting with airline representatives, South said he learned that a pilot and a construction worker saw Margie Dabney on the tarmac the afternoon she disappeared. By the time rescuers reached the secure location, she was gone.

Searches of the airport, hospital psychiatric wards, churches and morgues yielded nothing.

South said he believes she was abducted by an airport employee.

''She's either dead somewhere or is being housed by someone,'' he said.

Approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, which progressively erases the memory.

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On the Net:

American Airlines: http://www.aa.com/

Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/



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