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2 men run over in Denver International Airport accidents; Safety director "alarmed"

Safety director "alarmed" by accidents at Denver International Airport
Safety director "alarmed" by accidents at Denver International Airport 03:18

The top safety official at Denver International Airport said he's "alarmed" by two separate airfield incidents, nine months apart.

Both incidents saw a man get hit by trucks as they were doing their jobs on the ground at the airport.

"I don't think this is something we would expect," DIA Director of Airport Safety Travis Krabbenhoft told CBS News Colorado. "The airport has continued to grow. We see more and more traffic out there as we have more and more flights."

The most recent incident occurred on May 20 as a "wing walker" for Southwest Airlines was directing a plane to push back. "Wing walker" refers to the ground crew staff who help marshall planes onto and off the runway and direct ground traffic at airports.

Airport video from 9:30 p.m. that night shows the Southwest employee attempting to stop traffic on an airport road when the driver of a Southwest truck crashed into the wing walker.

"It's a terrible accident," Krabbenhoft said. "Certainly things could have been done differently."

The wing walker was transported to University Hospital. The vehicle driver was issued three violations and lost his privileges to drive on the airfield, according to Krabbenhoft, "for not driving in an appropriate way."

According to a Denver Police report, the Southwest driver said "he did not see the wing walker."

"Our teams looked into that incident and it was handled internally," Chris Perry, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, said. "We don't have anything additional to share."

CBS News Colorado learned of a more serious airfield accident nine months earlier, on Aug. 21, 2023.

Aerial view of Denver International Airport, Colorado
Aerial view of Denver International Airport. Marli Miller/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In that early morning incident, an employee of Millstone Weber, a subcontractor, was driving a water truck as part of concrete work near runway 17L-35R when he ran over an employee of Sturgeon Electric, who was working on the project, according to an airport report. Neither Millstone Weber nor Sturgeon Electric have responded to messages from CBS News Colorado seeking comment.

The Sturgeon employee was seriously injured and hospitalized.

According to the airport's investigation of the incident, the Millstone Weber water truck driver may have been fatigued as he had been working "extended shifts" that had violated the company's "Fatigue Management Plan."

According to the investigation, the driver was allowed to work as many as 14 hours a day during a six-day workweek. But records show he had been working as many as 17.5 hours per day; "a violation of Millstone Weber's Fatigue Management Plan," according to the after-action investigation. Those same records show the driver had worked 71 hours the week before the accident, and for two weeks in July, had worked 74 hours each week.

Krabbenhoft said, "That system failed and we need to do something to make sure that's not continuing in the future."

The airport's investigation showed for eight weeks before the accident, the water truck driver's hours had exceeded the allowable hours during five of the eight weeks.

Krabbenhoft declined to say what, if any, penalties were being imposed on the contracting company, citing likely litigation.

He said it was hard to compare DIA's airfield safety record to other airports since there is currently no centralized national database for these kinds of incidents. He said DIA would typically expect one or two such accidents per year. He went on to say anyone driving on the airfield undergoes driver training that exceeds FAA requirements.

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