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Family of Overland Park boy killed at Alabama airport files lawsuit

Updated: 2013-06-06T03:30:36Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The heavy airport sign that toppled over and killed an Overland Park boy in Birmingham, Ala., was unstable and the designers and contractors knew it, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Ten-year-old Luke Bresette was killed and three other members of his family were injured March 22 as they were returning home from a spring break vacation. An arrival and departure sign in a new terminal at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, weighing between 300 and 400 pounds, fell forward onto them while other family members looked on.

The suit, filed in Jefferson County, Ala., Circuit Court by Kansas City attorney Tim Dollar, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of Luke, parents Heather and Ryan Bresette, and their four other children.

Heather Bresette suffered a cracked pelvis, head injuries, two ankle fractures and a tibia fracture. Samuel Bresette, 8, had a fractured leg and facial injuries. Tyler Bresette, 5, had a closed head injury.

The lawsuit lists nine contractors, designers and construction companies as defendants. It does not list the airport authority or the city of Birmingham.

The cabinet was one of four installed in the airport to house electronic flight information displays. The lawsuit alleges that:

• The cabinets were intended to be freestanding several inches away from the wall.

• The thickness of the front panel of the cabinets was increased from 3/4 inch to 13/4 inch, and the material changed from plywood to a denser and heavier fiberboard, increasing the weight at the top of the cabinets.

• A 6-inch recess was carved into the front of the cabinet base, reducing it from 18 inches to 12 inches. A footrest also was added to the front base.

The suit says the defendants knew or should have known that airport visitors would be standing near the cabinet to read flight information.

“All defendants knew or should have known that the flawed design, the improper modifications and the failure to secure or anchor the freestanding (cabinets) would result in instability and a foreseeable risk of fatal danger to the general public,” the lawsuit states.

The suit further contends the defendants had numerous conversations about their concerns. It says that the base of the first new cabinet to be installed was screwed into the concrete floor and that efforts were made to secure the second and third cabinets to the wall, ceiling or floor. But the fourth cabinet — the one that fell on the Bresette family — was left freestanding without any anchors to the floor, wall or ceiling, according to the lawsuit.

Defendants in the suit include Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, BLOC Global Services Group, KPS Group and Fish Construction. Attempts to reach those companies for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

Brasfield & Gorrie and BLOC Global Services Group issued a statement in April saying they installed the signs but did not design them.

Fish Construction has previously released a statement saying it only built the sign cabinets and did not design, install or inspect them. The company said it did, however, express concern over the stability of the cabinets.

A spokeswoman for KPS previously told AL.com that the company’s “intent in the drawings and specifications was always that this piece of cabinet work and all other components of the airport be safe and secure.”

Luke was a big sports fan, and his death prompted an outpouring of support from college football and basketball teams.

The Bresette family announced through their attorney Wednesday that they would have no comment until the case is concluded.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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