Fort Lauderdale, FL – Today, attorney David Di Pietro filed a Complaint against Delta Air Lines and other entities after Olga Woltering was brutally murdered at the Fort LauderdaleHollywood International Airport on January 6, 2017. The shooting that left five people dead and dozens more injured was foreseeable, but nobody did anything to stop it – including Delta Air Lines.
Esteban Santiago-Ruiz boarded his one-way flight from Anchorage, Alaska, after suspiciously checking in a single piece of luggage: a handgun case which held his Walther PPS 9mm semiautomatic pistol and its ammunition. After a quick layover in Minneapolis, he arrived in Fort Lauderdale where he retrieved his firearm and ammunition from Delta’s baggage office, loaded his firearm in the adjacent restroom, and then fired shots at the heads of innocent travelers in the baggage claim area. Delta should have seen this coming.
David Di Pietro, attorney for the Woltering family, stated, “This entire tragedy could have been avoided had Delta taken simple steps to safeguard the safety of its passengers, such as having law enforcement escort passengers with a firearm out of the airport or having passengers retrieve their firearms in the cargo area outside of the airport terminal.” Di Pietro further stated, “Delta could have placed zip ties around the firearm case, which would have only cost Delta 25 cents.” Most airlines allow passengers to transport their firearms and ammunition together in a checked bag if a short set of rules is followed. But as David Di Pietro said, “Santiago was not the typical passenger, and Delta ignored the warning signs: a young male, traveling alone, on a one-way flight purchased the same day, with no luggage other than his firearm and ammunition, arriving for a domestic flight four hours early. Just these factors would make the drug trafficking red flags go up.”
But Santiago’s threat was even more obvious. Had Delta adequately investigated this traveler, they would have discovered he was mentally ill and underwent psychological treatment. In
November 2016, only two months before this horrific event, Santiago even made statements to the FBI that the United States was forcing him to watch ISIS videos, prompting Alaska police to temporarily confiscate his handgun.
It was also not the first time Santiago tried to do this. Santiago had booked a one-way flight with Delta to LaGuardia Airport for just a few days before. Had he boarded the flight as scheduled, he and his handgun case would have landed on December 31, 2016 – New Year’s Eve in New York City. But an attack at LaGuardia would have been too difficult to accomplish due to its different procedures for retrieving a checked weapon and the increased security for the holiday. Santiago canceled that flight and chose an easier target, which Delta facilitated.
Santiago’s behavior during his flights to Fort Lauderdale should have also alerted Delta. He acted aggressively, was disruptive and unruly, and started arguments with other passengers, all in the presence of Delta’s flight crew. Yet when he landed, his weapon was returned to him as if nothing had happened. “Delta’s inaction flies in direct contrast to airlines being quick to confiscate items and remove passengers from flights for significantly less,” stated Di Pietro. Not only did Delta act negligently, but Delta also violated Florida law by returning Santiago’s firearm to him within the airport terminal. Following the law on January 6 would have saved several lives, including the life of Olga Woltering.
Olga Woltering and her husband, Ralph, arrived in Fort Lauderdale for a family cruise to celebrate Ralph’s birthday. In the blink of an eye, Santiago violently ended the Wolterings’ 64- year marriage and stole from their family their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. After she was struck and killed by Santiago’s gunfire, Ralph remained with her lifeless body for hours while authorities secured and investigated the scene. The events that day forever traumatized Ralph Woltering and changed his entire family, and could have been avoided if Delta did not act negligently or illegally.One year after this shooting, David Di Pietro says multiple questions remain: “Why would Delthand over a firearm with ammunition in a crowded terminal to someone who they knew to bunruly, disruptive, and argumentative? Why would Delta turn over a firearm and ammunition to someone in the terminal when they knew doing so was prohibited by law? Why did Delta not see the many red flags that Santiago raised before allowing him to board the plane? Why did Deltnot provide adequate security for its passengers?” Perhaps Delta has some answers.
About Di Pietro Partners: David Di Pietro is a trial attorney and former prosecutor. Mr. Di Pietro’s partner, Nicole Martell, and his senior associate, Maria Schiuma, are also former prosecutors. Jay Spechler and Gary Cowart are retired Broward County judges. Di Pietro Partners handles complex litigation matters throughout the State of Florida. Please do not direct any inquiries or comments to the Woltering family. For more information, please contact David Di Pietro of Di Pietro Partners at 954-712-3070.