A 76-year-old grandmother who had flown from Kiev to Denver was found by her family, sitting alone in a wheelchair, next to a baggage carousel at Denver International Airport. The elderly woman's family said she had suffered a stroke and was abandoned.
Now, Delta Airlines is scrambling to explain the treatment of Yefrosini Kramarenko.
CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski has learned the airline is investigating the incident.
"I've been telling (my children), 'Grandma is coming, Grandma is coming.' And they were really excited," said Kramarenko's daughter, and mother of two, Alona Fitzgerald. "I showed them pictures of her."
Kramarenko had planned a long visit to Colorado to see her daughter and grandchildren. She took a train, a taxi and three flights to cover the 5,600 miles between her home in the Ukraine and Colorado.
"We'd been standing and waiting for her to come through the gates," said Fitzgerald. "We did not see her."
Fitzgerald said she and others from her family were at the airport waiting in the main terminal for her mother to arrive. When Kramarenko did not emerge, the family started searching the airport. Fitzgerald told Kovaleski the family searched for more than an hour before finding her mother at baggage claim.
"I was shocked. I didn't expect to see this," said Fitzgerald. "She was only half in the wheelchair because her left arm was hanging down to the ground. I did not know what was going on. Her look on her face, suffering face, and then her left leg was like half on the ground. When I come closer to her, her face was droopy."
Hospital records show Kramarenko had suffered a "right frontotemporal lobe stroke."
"And I felt at that moment that she was just nothing. She was like a piece of luggage there," said Fitzgerald.
She explained to 7NEWS that her mother had foam coming from her mouth and had soiled herself. Fitzgerald said she went to a Delta Airlines desk at the airport to ask what had happened. She said she received no answers.
Without health insurance for her mother, confused by Kramarenko's state and hoping she would get better, Fitzgerald said she initially took her mother home to clean her up and let her rest. But, she said, the next day it was clear her mother's condition was getting worse so Fitzgerald called 911.
Kramarenko spent much of the next 18 days in a hospital, at times able to speak, using her daughter as a translator. Fitzgerald said her mother told her she felt as though she was dying on the last leg of her trip from Salt Lake City to Denver.
Medical records say, "At some point during her travels she did suffer a stroke and did suffer a fall while in a plane and attempting to get up to use the lavatory. Flight attendants were not able to communicate with her."
Kramarenko died on Oct. 26, less than three weeks after landing in Denver.
"She was asking why? 'Why I'm suffering? Why I am in this condition? Why nobody helped me?'" said Fitzgerald, who has sent e-mails, letters and called Delta Airlines asking for an explanation.
She understands airline employees did not cause her mother's stroke but Fitzgerald wants to know why she wasn't called and why her mother was abandoned at baggage claim.
Travel receipts show Fitzgerald was listed as an emergency contact on her mother's airline reservation and she had specifically requested the wheelchair to help her elderly mother, who battled arthritis and did not speak or read English.
Kramarenko was also carrying a copy of the New Testament and inside it were several cards with her daughter's name and phone number, Fitzgerald said.
Delta Airlines has declined an interview request by 7NEWS, and instead sent Investigator Tony Kovaleski a one-line statement reading, "We are investigating this incident to ensure the type of service offered meets the level of customer service Delta strives to provide."
On the phone, a spokesperson for Delta said the airline uses a third party contractor to handle passengers who request wheelchair service and the company plans to interview the crews on Kramarenko's flights as well as employees of the contractor.
"I would like to get some kind of comfort from them that there was some kind of mistake. Something like that and I would have peace," said Fitzgerald.
"And it won't happen again?" asked Kovaleski.
"To somebody else," she replied.
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