Widow Sues Boeing, Military Contractor for Accident in Kuwait

John Bruce's family says they're frustrated with lack of information about incident that happened a half-way around the world

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    John Bruce

    The Arlington Heights family of a United Airlines employee who died in Kuwait last year after falling from a jet's baggage loader has sued the military contractor, the equipment's manufacturer and Chicago-based Boeing.

    In the lawsuit filed Monday in the Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court, Patty Bruce said her husband, John Bruce, was on top of a mobile belt loader unloading cargo from a Boeing 747 when an operator moved the machine without warning.

    "That employee was not paying attention when he engaged that piece of equipment and catapulted John 15 [to] 20 onto the concrete tarmac, where he hit his head and suffered a brain injury," the family's attorney, Timothy J. Cavanagh, alleged Tuesday.

    John Bruce, 64, died six days after the fall, leaving behind his wife and two adult sons.

    "It's very frustrating just because we knew how safety-conscious he was," said Patty Bruce.

    The U.S. military contracted with CAV International, an American corporation, to operate the Al-Mubarak Air Base in Kuwait and other U.S. airbases around the world.

    The suit claims that Boeing failed to provide Bruce with protective gear and that the loader's manufacturer, NMC-Wollard Inc., failed to provide equipment to prevent a fall.

    Bruce was a 23-year veteran of United Airlines, and the company renamed its cafeteria in his honor after his death, but the family said there's been little else in the form of comfort from the defendants.

    "For 14 months, CAV International has stonewalled this family and provided no information on how John was killed. The company has even failed to acknowledge that John was killed at the hand of their employees," said Cavanagh.

    Patty Bruce said the family has received no acknowledgment or explanation from the military for her husband's death and said the lawsuit is her way of trying to find out what really happened.

    "Apologize to us. Acknowledge that it happened and seek to prevent this from ever happening again," she said.

    CAV International and NMC Wollard did not return NBC Chicago's calls or e-mail messages seeking comment about the suit. Boeing declined to comment.