Ryanair review urged after child’s fall from airstairs at Stansted

12.8.2010 (Yorkshire Evening Post)

Air accident investigators today recommended budget airline Ryanair review procedures
after a three-year-old child fell on to the tarmac while boarding a plane.
The child, Olga, escaped with only minor injuries after falling through the gap
between the handrail and the level platform at the top of the Boeing 737’s boarding

On a Ryanair flight leaving Stansted airport, she had climbed the stairs unassisted
as her mother, journalist Sasha Slater, was carrying her 18-month-old son, Joe,
with one hand and luggage with the other.

When Olga reached the top of the stairs, “she turned towards her mother, leaned
backwards and fell through the gap between the extendable handrail and the top
of the airstairs,” an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said today.

After receiving initial medical assistance, Olga was airlifted to hospital and
was released 24 hours later.

The AAIB recommended that Ryanair review its current passenger boarding and disembarkation
procedures “so that assistance is made available to passengers accompanied by
children and those with special needs”.

Today’s report into the incident, on July 17 2009, said: “The gap between the
extendable handrail and the upper platform of the Boeing 737 airstairs represents
a hazard to small children boarding or disembarking the aircraft.”

The AAIB said there had been four previously-reported similar incidents involving
small children and this had led to American aviation authorities issuing a special
airworthiness information bulletin; the amendment of the Boeing 737 flight attendant
manual and the release of two special safety bulletins.

The AAIB said it was making the safety recommendation to Boeing about the airstairs
design as the special bulletins “do not provide physical protection against a
child falling through the gap”.

Also, the AAIB said modification proposed by Ryanair after last summer’s incident
provided “only a limited physical protection against falling”.

In May this year, Ms Slater wrote about the incident in the London Evening Standard.

She described how Olga had “suddenly screamed and slid off the side of the platform”,
landing on her side on the tarmac.

Ms Slater went on: “I thrust Joe into the arms of an air hostess and ran down
to reach my daughter who was lying, screaming, beneath the plane. I was forcibly
prevented from holding her by one of the many doctors on the flight in case she’d
broken her back.

“The next few hours passed in a blur of paramedics, sedatives, stretchers, helicopters
and ambulances, brain scans and X-rays. But a day later she was running around
in hospital, the only visible signs of injury some scuffing on her toes and knees,
a sore neck, and an egg on her forehead