Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair 'should probe child fall'

Air accident investigators have 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 steps.

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.

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".

The report into the incident, on July 17 2009, said: "The gap between the extendible 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 modifications proposed by Ryanair after last summer's incident provided "only a limited physical protection against falling".

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