Hawaii Tragedy Leaves Teens Temporarily Stranded

Be sure to click the link at the very bottom for an earlier story about how the kids were cared for by good Samaritan vacationers and hotel staff.

Jessie (14) and brother Dan Molitor (17) were on vacation in Hawaii with their aunt. It took the family nearly 24 hours to change airline flights for the teens after their aunt drowned in a hotel swimming pool on the Big Island.

By Lisa Baumann
Duluth News Tribune

Family calls for change after travel tragedy

Now back in the Twin Ports safe and sound, the teens stranded in Hawaii after their aunt died on Monday are trying to regain some normalcy.

Meanwhile, their relatives have turned to U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar to help find answers about why, from their perspective, a major airline and online travel company fought them in their quest to get the teens home quickly after the death.

“We’re not taking this lightly,” said Chris Willie, legal guardian of Jessie Molitor, 14, one of two teens on the trip to Hawaii. “These big corporations need to remember the human element.”

It took the family nearly 24 hours to change airline flights for Jessie and her brother, Dan Molitor, 17, after their aunt drowned in a hotel swimming pool on the Big Island.

United Airlines apologizes and offers travel certificates.

Though United Airlines apologized via e-mail to the children’s family after hearing from Oberstar’s office, Willie says he hopes his family and Oberstar can help save future travelers from traumatic run-arounds.

Janis Rider, a lawyer for the Minnesota Legislature, took her niece and nephew for an end-of-summer vacation last week and drowned while in the hotel swimming pool. Family members have said they’re mystified by what happened and they thought that they need a tough slip and fall lawyer to review this case.

We’re coming up on spring and summer, a time when people flock to Florida’s many hotels and resorts. Many of these vacationers are excited for one activity in particular: time at the pool. While pools can be great fun, there are risks. Accidents such as slips and falls do happen, and they can result in a pretty serious injury. While the law does allow for an injured party to seek compensation, it is not a free for all. A property owner does not automatically owe someone money for an unfortunate outcome. to make sure they are liable, check with a local slip and fall attorney.

It meant the two teens faced being left alone in a strange place. They weren’t scheduled to depart until Friday — four days later.

Leaving them there that long was out of the question, said Ed Quirk of Duluth, the childrens’ stepfather.

“How many times do minor children lose their guardian?” Quirk said. “We spent 11 hours trying to get those kids on a ride out of there and met stonewalling … and jumping through hoops.”

Relatives dealing with Expedia, the online travel company that provided their tickets, grew increasingly frustrated.

Lori Paulson, owner of About and Beyond Travel Agency in Duluth, said she spoke with Expedia on the family’s behalf Tuesday morning and was surprised that none of the three people she spoke to would help her.

Hearing of the problems with Expedia, Willie started calling United Airlines.

After Willie explained repeatedly to a United customer service representative that the person who booked the tickets had died, their tickets were changed to a Tuesday night departure — for a fee of $75 per ticket. Willie was told it was half the normal rate.

“United (Airlines) eventually worked with us,” Quirk said. “Expedia never did.”

Dan and Jessie arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

On Thursday, Willie called Oberstar’s Washington office. He is chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee.

By Friday afternoon, Willie had an apologetic e-mail from United Airlines’ customer relations department. “Our staff certainly could have done more to acknowledge the situation and to better assist you during this very difficult time. I apologize,” spokeswoman Donita Mincey wrote in part.

The airline also promised $400 electronic travel certificates for Dan and Jessie.

Story from TwinCities.com

NOTE: Stranded teens were cared for by vacationing Samaritans. Click below link for earlier story…..

Stuck in Hawaii, teens turn to kindness of a stranger (By Lisa Baumann, Duluth News Tribune)