Airport Luggage Belt

It Took Only Seconds for a Toddler to Slip into Hartsfield-Jackson’s Luggage Chute

If you ever traveled by air when you were a child, you probably remember entertaining at least a thought or two about the system of chutes and belts that carry luggage from place to place at the airport. You might have been afraid of getting swept away by those conveyor belts, or wondered where you’d end up if you tagged along for the ride.

Well, this July at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, one 2-year-old did more than wonder. In the moments while his mother was printing her boarding pass, Lorenzo Vega climbed onto a luggage conveyor belt in front of an unstaffed ticket counter and was carried out of reach before she could catch up with him.

While this might sound like a harmless misadventure, the baggage system is “not intended for humans or living beings,” as noted by a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). By the time the boy was found in a TSA screening room, his right hand was broken, and he had passed through the X-ray scanner. Airport baggage scanners emit an average of 156 millirems of radiation, meaning Vega was subjected to the equivalent of about 15 full-body medical X-rays, before even beginning treatment for his hand.

Atlanta’s Busy Airport Is Already a Minefield for Young Travelers

Although the TSA’s spokesperson has stated that children ending up in the baggage system is rare, Hartsfield-Jackson has proven hazardous for young travelers in other ways before. The airport has long battled with a well-known child sex trafficking problem, and multiple children have had their feet caught in its escalators, resulting in serious injuries.

Just a month before Vega’s ill-fated trip down the luggage chute, a mother and father even had to fight off an apparent kidnapping attempt on the Hartsfield-Jackson premises. A woman, who officers later described as showing signs of “mental distress,” grabbed two of the couple’s small children and, according to the parents, attempted to run off with them.

Hartsfield-Jackson Is Responsible for the Safety of Its Guests, Large and Small

Traveling is stressful enough, without the worry that hazards may be lurking everywhere, waiting to swallow up children in the slightest moments of parental inattention. Hartsfield-Jackson has a legal obligation to protect travelers on its premises from foreseeable dangers, and just as the airport’s management has taken measures to keep children safe from predators and faulty escalators, it’s time they reassessed the design of the baggage system as well.

These systems hold a natural fascination for small children, and using them can easily put parents in a state of distraction. In Hartsfield-Jackson’s case, an entry point was left unattended, without guardrails or other safety mechanisms, and easily within a 2-year-old’s reach. All things considered, it’s remarkable more children haven’t suffered similar accidents or worse.

If you or a member of your family have sustained an injury due to unsafe conditions at Hartsfield-Jackson, The Stoddard Firm can help you hold the airport responsible and get the compensation you deserve.