Woman claims airline staff dismantled wheelchair, refused to help put it back together

By Jacob Rascon - Anchor-Reporter

HOUSTON - Everything about Angela and Justin Titcombe’s trip to Canada was amazing until the flight home to Houston.

Who is Angela

Angela Wrigglesworth Titcombe was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a toddler and has used a wheelchair to get around since the age of 5, but she flies frequently without serious problems.

Wrigglesworth is an advocate and was photographed with President George H.W. Bush after thanking him for the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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Her wheelchair usually sits on its side in the belly of the plane, but the Air Canada ground crew in Montreal “chose to dismantle” the wheelchair just before takeoff, Wriggleworth said.

Angela Wriggleworth

Angela Wriggleworth's husband and the pilot of her flight attempt to fix her dismantled wheelchair.

What she says happened

“When (the ground crew in Houston) brought it up, it didn’t even look like a wheelchair,” she said. “The back was completely off, (as well as nine other pieces of the chair), and the joystick was in my seat.”

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She said the Air Canada Houston ground crew supervisor “refused” to put the chair back together and “refused” to provide tools so that Titcombe could do it.

Justin Titcombe and the pilot tried and failed to reassemble the chair with their bare hands, but after an hour of fighting with the chair, Wrigglesworth said was ready to go home.

“I had to carry my joystick in my lap and drive it sideways,” she said. “What if I had been traveling by myself?”

What Air Canada is saying

“This incident is disconcerting as Air Canada has detailed processes in place to safely and securely transport wheelchairs,” the airline said in a statement. “We are looking into this situation to see how this happened. We make every effort to correct such situations immediately because we recognize the importance of the wheelchairs to their users."

Wrigglesworth emphasized that the Air Canada “flight crew did a marvelous job trying to help us. I’m not a complainer and I’m not looking to get anyone specifically in trouble. I’m looking at the broader picture of change.”

'One of thousands'

“My story is one of thousands,” Wrigglesworth said. “I think every day, you could interview at least 10 people just in Houston who have their wheelchairs damaged during the flight. What if the pilot hadn’t been willing to help my husband? What if I would have fallen in my wheelchair? The ‘what if’s' go on and on and it’s just unacceptable. This is an extension of my body. It is a necessity for me to be able to move and it was treated with complete disregard and disrespect.”

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