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‘Miracle’ flight survivor: PTSD related to firing

Denise Lockie of Charlotte, a passenger in seat 2C when the New York-to-Charlotte US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, says in the suit that she received notice of termination during unpaid leave for treatment of anxiety and acute stress. Staples, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, did not respond to a request for comment.

In the suit, filed in Mecklenburg Superior Court, Lockie says she was fired in retaliation for seeking leave and because she filed a workers’ compensation claim related to the crash.

Lockie says that after the crash, she began to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks related to flying, though she continued to work full time and flew frequently as an executive for Staples.

In the suit, filed by attorney Sean Herrmann of Van Kampen Law, Lockie says she was treated for acute stress disorder and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the crash and has been under psychological and psychiatric care since January 2009.

In December 2012, the suit says, Lockie went on a six-month leave prescribed by her psychologist to “fully recover from the trauma related to the crash.” Six months later, an extension was sought in the leave, but Lockie instead received a form letter from COBRA telling her that it was her new insurer because she’d been terminated. Staples notified her a few days later of her firing, the suit says, which Lockie says violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Flight 1549, which lost both engines when it flew into a flock of Canada geese after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, was bound for Charlotte with 150 passengers and a crew of five. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was able to coax the 50-ton jetliner onto the Hudson River near the ferry docks, and all aboard were rescued.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found no one to be at fault in the extraordinary incident and no lawsuits were ever filed against US Airways, the plane’s manufacturer, Airbus, or any other entity involved in the flight. After the NTSB findings, passengers were offered $10,000 in exchange for release against future claims.

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