The Dangers of Airport Carts

Feb. 8, 2007 — -- While the chances of being in a plane crash are slim, stealthy airport carts can cause accidents before even leaving the airport.

The golf cartlike vehicles used by airlines to help passengers travel between gates can be dangerous. Safety experts say there are two main problems: Airport carts are driven far too fast, and they're so quiet that pedestrians have trouble hearing them approach.

On Christmas Day 2005, a passenger cart whizzed past Steve Bomar at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, wiping out his mother and wife and sending them both to the hospital. Bomar described the moment before impact.

"I saw a shocked look on my mom's face as we were talking to her," he said. Bomar's wife, Deb, was shocked as well.

"It was scary. I thought a bomb had gone off," she said. "It hurt."

Sgt. Dave Karsnia of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police said the Bomar family's accident was caused by the cart driver's mistake.

"That's the worst accident I've ever seen out here," he said. "We weren't sure mechanically that the cart was sound. But we had that checked and the cart was OK so it was a mistake by the driver."

A Parent's Travel Nightmare

The day before the Bomar's accident, on Christmas Eve 2005, John and Stacy Dombrosky's young son, who was two-years-old at the time, was involved in a cart accident, also at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

"I just saw this cart coming towards him, and I thought this isn't going to happen. This can't happen," Stacy said.

The cart rolled over David, nearly crushing his head.

"I was able to see the cart just coming to rest and David's head nearly underneath the front right tire just about to be rolled over," John said.

Stacy feared the worst.

"I'm thinking he's dead. I'm thinking he's dead," she said.

David escaped with painful second degree burns from being dragged. Now, his scars are almost completely gone. While his parents hope he's forgotten the incident, they never will.

"I have this overwhelming feeling of responsibility to people to warn them that this can happen," Stacy said.

Striving for Safety

Since 2001, there have been 71 cart accident reports at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Many people haven't heard more about them because no one seems to be keeping watch nationally, not the Federal Aviation Administration and not the National Transportation Safety Board.

Airport cops say cart drivers often claim they get pressure from airlines to move faster.

"They tell me they're under pressure from the airlines … to get their passengers from one gate to the next gate as quick as they can," said Officer Matt Compson of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police.

David Dombrosky and the Bomars were each hit by Northwest Airline carts. Northwest said it takes customer safety very seriously and worked hard to make sure passengers had enough time to make connecting flights.

The company that operates the carts for Northwest, G2 Secure, cited a small rate of incidents and told ABC News that many of them were unpreventable because passengers darted into the path of carts.

Minneapolis-St. Paul is at the forefront of dealing with the cart issue. The airport has brought the number of accidents down to just six in all of last year.

It credits better driver training and increased enforcement even setting occasional speed traps for the passenger carts. Now, the airport's police are getting inquiries from other airports looking for safety advice.

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