Air Canada Damages Dying Boy's Wheelchair

Airline Loses Wheelchair

A 10-year-old Canadian boy who flew to New York as part of his dying wish arrived in the Big Apple only to find his customized wheelchair had been badly damaged by Air Canada. Without the chair, Tanner Bawn was immobile and spent nearly a day stuck in his Manhattan hotel room waiting for a replacement.

Bawn, 10, of Vancouver, has muscular dystrophy and is immobile without the electric wheelchair. According to Scott Stratten, a family friend, doctors give Bawn a year and a half to live.

So his friends and family are trying to fulfill a dozen or so of his wishes. One is being a cowboy for a day. Another, is visiting New York where he wants to see the Toys R Us in Times Square and race through Central Park in a tutu with a supporter. That charity run called "Tutus for Tanner" in supposed to happen Friday and aims to raise $25,000 via Twitter. (A tag #TutusForTanner has been filled with posts all day about the wheelchair saga.)

Bawn's saga started Wednesday afternoon when he and his aunt, Catherine Connors, boarded an Air Canada plane in Toronto heading to New York's LaGuardia airport.

After making it to his seat, the custom wheelchair was taken to the cargo hold.

"One of the baggage handlers decided to try and take it apart," Stratten said. "This isn't like a manual wheelchair. This is a huge thing."

When Bawn and Connor arrived in New York, Stratten said, "they found the wheelchair in a heap in pieces."

"They pretty much wrecked his $15,000 custom chair so he couldn't go anywhere," said Stratten, who helped raise funds for the trip. "I've got a kid here who can't move."

Air Canada originally said it couldn't do anything about the chair until Monday. Bawn is supposed to head home Sunday.

There followed a firestorm of criticism on Twitter against Air Canada on top of media coverage that got Tanner another dying wish -- to be on TV. It also got him his complicated wheelchair fixed in less than a day.

"Tanner is smiling," Stratten reported around 2:30 Thursday afternoon, minutes after the fixed chair was delivered to the hotel room.

Luckily, after a 23-hour delay, Bawn has his chair back and can start exploring the city.

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Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline tried to get a replacement chair while it rushed off and paid to get a New York company to repair the broken one.

"We're sorry this happened. We always try to deliver baggage safely but sometimes accidents do occur and it's particularly upsetting when it involves a mobility aid," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a terrible situation and all we can do is try and fix it as best we can, as quickly as possible."

The airline covered all the costs associated with fixing the chair.

Stratten said the family was initially upset with how the airline handled the situation, giving conflicting reports about what happened and when the chair would be fixed.

It didn't hurt that Stratten is a Twitter pro, with more than 60,000 followers. Connors is also very active with 8,000 followers, her own blog and was in New York for the annual BlogHer conference this weekend, an event for 2,400 female bloggers.'

She acknowledged the Twitter rage in a note Thursday afternoon thanking everybody.

"Air Canada is stepping up, making things right," Connors said. "And you guys have everything to do with it."

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