Eduardo Tlatempa, 48, was removing bags from the rear cargo hold of a United Boeing 777 Friday afternoon when he missed his step onto a scissor lift and fell 10 to 20 feet to the concrete, an airport spokesman said.
Another United employee, who asked not to be named for fear it might jeopardize her job, said Tlatempa landed face-first. She said some colleagues who saw him lying there mistook it for an April Fool’s Day prank.
A United spokesman said the airline is conducting a review of the accident.
Tlatempa had been a cargo handler for 15 years with Continental Airlines at Newark Liberty International Airport before joining United at Dulles five years ago.
“On behalf of all of us at United and Continental Airlines, we express our deepest sympathies to Eduardo’s family and friends,” United spokesman Christen David said. “Eduardo was a longtime employee, and we are profoundly saddened by this loss. We are making every effort to provide assistance to Eduardo’s family and to support our co-workers during this difficult time.”