BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - What should have been a memorable family vacation in idyllic Destin, Fla., ended last year in tragedy for the Bresette family. The Overland Park family was flying through an airport in Alabama when an airport flight information sign unexpectedly fell on several members of the family, killing one of them.
Now the family has resolved a lawsuit and extended forgiveness to those involved in the events that lead to the accident.
Flight monitor falls, killing one and injuring others
In March 2013, the family of seven spent spring break vacationing in Destin, Florida. On the way back to Kansas City, they flew through the Birmingham, Alabama, airport. While in the terminal near the Southwest Airlines counter, a 300-pound flight information sign fell on top of four members of the Bresette family.
It took six people to lift the heavy sign off of them. Luke Bresette, 10, died in the accident. His mother, Heather Bresette, suffered broken ankles and a crushed pelvis. Tyler Bresette, 5, suffered a concussion and his brother Samuel, 7, had a broken leg and nose.
Following the accident, the Bresette family hired Kansas City attorney Tim Dollar and filed suit in circuit court in Jefferson County, Alabama . The legal process revealed some disturbing details about the events leading up to the accident.
Contractor was informed board was unstable
The airport had been going through a major renovation spearheaded by the architect-engineering firm KPS Group, as well as contractor Brasfield and Gorrie in a joint venture with BLOCK Global as its general contractors.
Court records show during the installation of the flight information signs, the sub-contractor, Monumental Contracting Service, became concerned about the “top heaviness” of the signs and with the fact it did not have any bracing or anchorage mechanism to secure them.
41 Action News obtained court records that show Monumental supervisor Chris Swain sent an email in January to Brasfield and Gorrie, advising of these concerns.
The email reads “Hello, Mike. There are major concerns about the top heaviness and weight component factor with the three-part MUFID once assembled. “
Even though Swain’s crews were scheduled to leave, the crews were so concerned with the safety of the situation they stayed on the scene hours after their shift ended to get an answer about what to do with the signs.
Emails show absent an order from the general contractor Brasfield and Gorrie, Swain eventually ordered his crews to lower the signs and lay them on the ground until he could get an answer about what to do to secure the signs.
“Josh,” the email reads, “lay them down to the ground first thing in the morning and do not assemble anymore in place until this issue is resolved.”
Court records show Monumental’s crew continued with its other assigned projects. However, Monumental staff members noticed another sub-contractor installed the signs. In addition, records show Monumental eventually also saw the amount for installation deducted from their pay even though no one told them the job was taken away from them.
Monumental staff members told attorneys they believed the contractor had acted on their concerns and anchored the signs. However, the contractor did not secure the signs as Monumental suggested. Based on testimony and emails, a judge dismissed Monumental from the lawsuit.
Bresette family moves forward
Most of the financial terms of this settlement are confidential. However, the two sides made public one of the non-monetary parts of this agreement.
The Birmingham Airport Authority plans to commission a sculpture in the image of Luke Bresette and in honor of the Live Like Luke Foundation . The foundation aims to encourage kids and adults to live life to the fullest each day.
The family wants the sculpture not to remind people of Luke’s life, not his death. They hope when people see it, it will remind them not to take any moment for granted and to cherish moments they have with their loved ones.
The family read a statement following Wednesday's court hearing:
We have always relied upon our faith to provide guidance, direction, and strength in raising our family. Quite frankly, our faith, was the only thing that allowed us to survive the events and the aftermath of March 22, 2013. And while our faith teaches us the importance of personal accountability, it also teaches us about the need for forgiveness. Luke also believed in forgiveness – asking for forgiveness or forgiving others. The individuals who make up the companies involved here are good and decent people who never intended this result. Nevertheless mistakes were made and there has now been accountability and repentance. Our family in return extends forgiveness.