Pilot Holds Plane for Grandfather Of Murdered Toddler

Posted Jan 13th 2011 09:39 AMUpdated Jan 18th 2011 09:26 AM

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Pilot Holds Plane for Grandfather Of Murdered Toddler

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An Arizona family is praising a Southwest Airlines pilot who held a Tucson-bound plane in Los Angeles for 12 minutes to wait for a passenger trying to get to a hospital to say his goodbyes to his 2½ -year-old grandson, who was about to be taken off life support..

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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September 12 2011 at 5:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jadesmith's comment
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1 reply to timasmith's comment
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February 01 2012 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Butch

My wife is a Travel Agent & I will make sure this article is brought to her attentiom!!!!!! God bless the pilot and the people responsible for bringing the matter to the pilot's attention. The pilot's name should be announced and he should be invited as a guest on a TV show such as FOX News or O'Riley. He and Capt Sulley make up for some of the "ChuckleHeads" in the airline industry!!! God Bless!!!!!!

April 13 2011 at 2:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Butch's comment
aleighcat

Yup! A true "patriot"!

April 13 2011 at 3:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
LAURA

Now, that is compassion... Gods blessings on this family and the pilot and to the passengers for which I am sure they were told why the delay.

April 13 2011 at 12:08 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
killkubota

Well, if it had been American Airlines, they would have told him to take a hike and left him. And if the pilot did what the Southwest pilot did, he would be disciplined and maybe fired. But, that's the way of a badly run airline and American has become one of the absolute worst airlines for customer service. They don't believe in it.

April 12 2011 at 11:42 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to killkubota's comment
robginnfl

What a negative, bitter comment, it had to come from a negative, bitter person. I can go on at great length about the many untold kindnesses extended by American to customers, but there is no sense in conversing with you further. If you want to see how many unkind things Southwest has done, watch just one episode of their weekly TV series. There is good and bad in all, but your comment leaves me cold. A toddler died - sad! A kind hearted pilot went above and beyond his duty to help someone in need - GOOD! Actually, your screen name tells me something about your value system.

April 12 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
aleighcat

Really? I just flew American Airlines 5 days ago and I received nothing less than friendly, courteous service. Maybe the problem isn't with the airline.............maybe it's rude people who expect everyone to kiss their hind ends and wait on them like royalty, ya think? Kudos to this pilot for remembering what being a compassionate human being is all about. My condolences to this little boy's family, how awful. Lock his murderer up and throw away the key......or better yet, hang him high and let him swing for killing that little angel. Absolutely disgusting.

April 13 2011 at 1:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sherill215

I volunteered for a rescue squad and worked at a hospital (at the same time), I got to see first hand what these families go through when ending ones life is on the horizon. Not only a difficult decision, but even more so when the clock in ticking for organ procurement. I praise SW Airlines for their captain's kindness and now I pray for the family, they will surely need the support! God Bless America....the only place that you know it could happen!

April 10 2011 at 2:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
j62hardy

TSA won't do anything at all to help passengers in stressful situations, and if you try to reason with them the only thing you get is a headache and elevated blood pressure!

April 09 2011 at 2:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to j62hardy's comment
miasmith

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February 18 2012 at 6:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Himself

So often, we get the sense we're being lied to, or at least not getting the whole truth, when flights are delayed. How often have we had the plane pull away from the gate, getting "credit" (hah! WRONG word!) for an on-time departure, only to wait on the tarmac for hours with the flimsiest of excuses?

Here, a pilot potentially risked corporate reprimand for a humanitarian gesture that consumed 12 minutes of the passengers' time.

Meanwhile, the TSA folks, seemingly hired and then exposed to "desensitivity training" followed the book mindlessly, ensuring they could not be responsible for any departure whatever from protocol.

No question, 9/11 is will continue to resonate as a ghastly event representing an immense change in our world. Please keep in mind, however, that the ghouls will have won if their actions make us less human - or humane.

April 01 2011 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Becky

I know which airline I will fly from now on. Southwest!!!!

March 30 2011 at 11:18 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

I am so sorry for this family's loss. I am glad the pilot held the plane for him.

March 30 2011 at 12:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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