LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A woman in a wheelchair is suing American Airlines claiming she was forced to crawl up stairs without help to get onto a plane bound for Los Angeles International Airport.

Theresa Purcell was booked on an American Eagle commuter flight from San Diego to LAX and claims the airline refused to bring out a portable ramp so she could board the flight.

Purcell claims ground crews told her it would delay the plane’s departure.

Instead, she alleges she was forced to crawl up a narrow staircase that is attached to the plane and had to do so without any help.

Purcell, who has a rare nerve disease and has been in a wheelchair for years, also claims she crawled down the aisle of the plane to her seat.

“I was humiliated. I mean it was embarrassing to have like 50-something people watch you crawl into a plane,” she said. “There was a ramp right next to the plane and she’s all like, ‘Oh, it’s too late.’ ”

“So I’m like, ‘OK, so we can’t just, you know, the ramp is right there? Can’t you guys just push it right here so I can get on?’ ” Purcell said. “She’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ ”

“All these people who have to watch me embarrass myself again and I got to be there hoping like, ‘Please, I hope I never see these people again,’ ” Purcell added.

CBS2 reached out to American Airlines Tuesday evening, which issued the following statement:

“We take these matters very seriously and began investigating Ms. Purcell’s claims … when they were first brought to our attention. We will evaluate the lawsuit as soon as we receive it.”

The airline would neither confirm nor deny Purcell’s claims that she had to crawl onto a plane when asked by the news station. They said an investigation continues.


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