A US Airways baggage handler was killed yesterday at Reagan National Airport when the baggage loading vehicle she was driving failed to stop and she was pinned under a 72-seat regional jet parked at a gate, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The employee, Yolanda Corbett, 32, of the District, joined Mid Atlantic Airways, a regional carrier owned by US Airways, in May, according to the NTSB report.
"We are grieving over the loss of one of our employees and we send our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends," Al Crellin, US Airways' executive vice president of operations, said in a company-wide memo yesterday.
Flight 1821 was at Gate 23 preparing for a 7 a.m. departure to Chicago when the accident occurred at 6:15, according to NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway. No passengers were aboard the aircraft. Several flight crew members who were preparing the cabin for departure said they felt a bump but did not witness the accident.
In addition to the NTSB, the incident is being investigated by US Airways, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. Investigators from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that represents US Airways baggage handlers, flew from Philadelphia yesterday to begin their own investigation, said union spokesman Joe Tiberi.
The NTSB has impounded the loading vehicle and requested its maintenance records. The agency also has requested the training and medical records of the victim.
US Airways spokesman David A. Castelveter said that the airline was cooperating with the investigation and that it was too early to determine a cause of the accident.
"It is irresponsible to draw any conclusions until the investigation is concluded," Castelveter said.
US Airways, which has been operating in bankruptcy since September, has cut about $1 billion in employee wages and benefits and eliminated hundreds of jobs. It is seeking to complete a $1.5 billion merger with America West Airlines.
Union officials have complained that National was understaffed as a result of the job cuts. In February, the airline was short 95 baggage handlers and ordered many of its employees to work overtime. Last summer, US Airways had 162 baggage handlers at National, down from 230 in November 2001, according to Tiberi.
In an effort to increase staffing, the airline has held a series of job fairs since January.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.