A disabled Florida woman who claimed to have been paralyzed after falling down a plane walkway because Southwest Airlines staffers refused to help her has died.
Gaby Assouline, 25, who suffered from a genetic muscle disease, was using a wheelchair while traveling to Denver from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February 2022 when she and her mother asked an airline employee for help, according to an ongoing lawsuit.
Assouline and her family assert that her request was refused and that she was forced to make her way down the jet bridge on her own.
She was soon “thrown” from the wheelchair and landed on her head, causing catastrophic injuries that left her paralyzed from the neck down, the suit says.
After 11 bedridden months, Assouline passed away Sunday, her family said on a GoFundMe page.
“Gaby was not alone at the end,” they wrote. “We were all blessed to be with her bedside, crying, praying and sharing Gaby stories.”
Her mother, Sandra Assouline, said last year that her once-vivacious daughter was forced to use a feeding tube and could no longer speak after the plane incident.
“The fear and pain she is showing in her eyes when she wakes up in those brief moments of clarity is too much to bear,” her mom said at the time.
Assouline said her daughter suffered from a disorder that turns muscle tissue into bone, a malady that hampered her mobility.
Southwest contended in court papers that Gaby refused rather than requested help, a claim that drew the ire of her family.
Her mother maintains that she and her daughter formally requested the use of a wheelchair and for staffers to help Gaby move around the airport.
The airline acknowledged Gaby’s passing this week.
“Southwest offers its sincere condolences to Ms. Assouline’s family, friends and all whose lives she touched,” the statement reads. “We have a more than 51-year commitment to caring for our People and Customers and remain engaged with the parties involved.”
Assouline’s family said it had hoped Gaby would eventually be able to return home before her dire condition deteriorated.
“Gaby’s life was tragically interrupted 11 months ago but she put up the greatest fight with grace, friends, laughter and the strong belief that she would leave the hospital and come home very soon,” they wrote online. “Unfortunately, complications robbed Gaby of that ending.”