A disability activist died from body sores associated with the loss of her $30,000 wheelchair that was 'destroyed' during a United Airlines flight, advocacy group claims

United Airlines Boeing 737 Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock
Engracia Figueroa was an amputee who had a spinal injury and had her wheelchair removed by United Airlines.

The use of non-custom chair after that led to sores which became infected and ultimately led to her death.

Figueroa said that this loss "should never have happened" and worked with Hand in Hand.

According to her advocacy group, a woman died from injuries sustained when United Airlines broke her specialized wheelchair.

Engracia Figueroa (51), from LA had her wheelchair destroyed following her return from the Care Can't Wait Rally, Washington DC, July 2021. She was working with Hand in Hand, a domestic rights organization.

Figueroa was a disability rights activist and president, Communities Actively Living Independent and Free, in downtown Los Angeles. He suffered a spinal injury and left leg amputation after being struck by a Bay Area Rapid Transit train over 30 years ago.

Hand in Hand said that she had to wait for five hours in a manual wheelchair at the airport after discovering her custom-made chair had broken. This led to her developing a pressure sore from being unable to balance.

She said that she thought about all the independence that she fought for and escaped for the past 30 years. "I was totally disabled, traumatized, and hurt, and exhausted." ABC7 News.

Hand in Hand describes Figueroa’s long battle with United for a replacement chair. This meant that she had to use a loaner chair provided by United, which was not designed for her body.

Engracia's $30,000. chair was finally replaced by United Airlines. The Hand in Hand statement said that Engracia's struggle for replacement had taken a toll on her health.

Figueroa released a statement in July saying that it was "like my worst nightmare became a reality...This has been my most horrifying experience in my 51 years of living."

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The organization announced her death in a statement. They explained how the sore developed into a severe infection, eventually reaching her hip bone. She required two emergency surgeries. Figueroa passed away on October 31.

Hand in Hand stated, "All of the staff at Hand in Hand are shocked, heartbroken and angry by Engracia’s tragic death." This should not have happened.

"Lives are at risk in the work we do and our current racist and ableist system continue to fail our communities repeatedly."

Airlines in the USA break thousands of wheelchairs every year. Bri Scalesse, a wheelchair user and disability advocate, spoke out about the potentially life-threatening consequences of this action with Insider during a recent interview.

"I think people don't realize that the cushion we use and how our bodies fit on it affects our skin's health," she said. She said that if you sit on the wrong thing for more than four days, it can cause a sore and even threaten your life.

Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois raised the importance to value wheelchairs as extensions of the human body. Figueroa supported this idea too.

Duckworth stated to Insider that wheelchairs should be treated as if they were a human limb, because they are my legs.

Insider was told by a spokesperson for United that they were "saddened to learn about Ms. Figueroa’s passing and offer our condolences and support to her family and close friends."

Business Insider has the original article.