Pilot Holds Plane for Grandfather Of Murdered Toddler
The child, Caden Rodgers of Aurora, Colorado, was in a Denver hospital, the victim of child abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, Theodore Madrid, 30, who has since been charged with first-degree murder.
The Southwest pilot's efforts to help Caden's grandfather, Mark Dickinson, of Palominas, Arizona, to get to the child's bedside on Jan. 5 first came to light when his wife, Nancy Dickinson, wrote of the incident to travel blogger Christopher Elliot.
In an interview with AOL Travel News, Nancy says, "He got to say his goodbyes thanks to Southwest. I am so grateful for the airline for doing what they did."
She says her stepdaughter, Ashley Rodgers, 26, needed her dad. And if Dickinson had missed the plane it would have been a tragedy on top of a tragedy.
"It was heartbreaking," Dickinson says.
Mark, an engineer with Northrop Grumman, had been on a business trip in Los Angeles when he got word his grandson was to be removed from life support that night. He already had a flight booked back to Tuscon and booked a connecting flight to Denver.
He arrived at LAX two hours early, but had to check in his suitcase, which took an hour, and then encountered a security line that was "out the door and down the sidewalk," Nancy says.
She says he advised Southwest and TSA workers of his urgent need to make the Tuscon flight and why, but could not convince them to help.
"God bless TSA. They are really there for us," Nancy says.
Mark, on the verge of tears, ended up just grabbing his computer, belt and shoes as they came through security screening and running shoeless to the plane, knowing the minutes were ticking by.
At the gate, the pilot of the Southwest plane and ticketing agent were both waiting for him.
"Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we're so sorry about the loss of your grandson," they said.
Nancy says she and Mark are not sure when or how Southwest got the word, but she is grateful they did. The plane was originally supposed to take off at 11:50; Mark arrived at 12:02 p.m.
"It was the pilot's call to make. We are grateful that he felt comfortable in making that call," Nancy says.
Mark was able to get to Denver to say goodbye to his grandson and be with his daughter.
Caden was buried yesterday. The toddler's organs have been donated to several people in need of tranplants.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Marilee McInnis tells AOL Travel News the carrier is proud of the pilot's actions.
"We fully support what our captain did," McInnis says. "Customer service is important and we're not at all surprised an action like this would take place."
(Libby Zay contributed to this report.)
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Photo courtesy of the family