Timothy and Olga Woltering had just arrived in town for a cruise to celebrate his 90th birthday when Esteban Santiago started shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Olga, who was 84, was killed along with four others. Her husband witnessed the attack and was with her body for hours during the chaos that followed the shooting, said the family’s attorney, David DiPietro.
DiPietro this week filed legal action in the case on behalf of the family, asking a judge to allow the husband's deposition in leiu of a planned lawsuit aimed at Delta Airlines as well as other defendants including the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Broward County Commission.
"His gun should have never been in that airport," said DiPietro.
The attorney alleges that Delta and other airlines routinely violate state law by returning passengers' firearms in the terminals rather than in cargo areas.
"There’s no law that allows delta to turn over a firearm when a passenger has arrived," said DiPietro. "We believe he was required to pick up the firearm in the cargo area not in the terminal."
He said the airline allowed Santiago to fly with bullets in a magazine rather than in a separate box as required by the TSA and failed to properly safeguard the weapon, noting that now the airline places a zip tie around gun cases before returning the weapons and has off-duty BSO deputies on special detail escort gun owners out of the airport.
"Is this a little bit of hindsight is 20 20?" Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman asked DiPietro.
"No, because we’ve learned after 911 that terrorism is a foreseeable risk," he answered. "Just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t mean everybody’s right."
During the law firm’s investigation it learned that Santiago was unruly during a flight on his way to Fort Lauderdale from Alaska, said DiPietro, providing another reason the gun should not have been returned to him in the airport. Delta had no comment on the legal action and DiPietro said he expects to file the lawsuit in the coming weeks.