Allegiant Air Sued Over 2010 Emergency Landing in Flagstaff; Tammie Dent Injured Tailbone on Slide

Aircraft emergency slides aren't always the bouncy-castle thrill they appear to be -- as Tammie Dent knows too well. The Phoenix woman broke her tailbone on a slide after an Allegiant Air jet carrying 154 people made an emergency landing in Flagstaff two years ago.

Dent and her husband are now suing Allegiant Air in federal court, saying the Las-Vegas-based airline should have provided crew members to instruct her on the proper use of the slide and designed the slide to better reduce the chance of injuries.;

Dent will suffer from pain and require medical care for the rest of her life, her lawsuit states.

The trouble began during the flight on July 25, 2010, from Billings, Montana to Mesa, when one of the MD-83's two engines quit working. Some passengers noticed the smell of smoke. The lights in the cabin went out, and the ride turned bumpy. The pilot made an emergency landing at Flagstaff's airport, locking up the wheels after touchdown and skidding to a quick stop.

The slides deployed from the airplane, but no crewmembers were present to guide Dent, her lawsuit states.

Like the other passengers, Dent jumped onto the slide. She was one of at least four passengers injured during the evacuation.

Her broken tailbone didn't heal in place and caused permanent nerve damage, the suit says. Just as bad, the injury has made her unable "to exchange love, affection, society, companionship, comfort, care and moral support with her husband, Richard Dent." Such "loss of consortium" claims can sometimes result in large awards in court.

"The emergency slide is a special piece of equipment that ordinary people would not know how to operate," says the lawsuit, which was filed on Friday. "Crewmembers should have the necessary training in emergency evacuation procedures and should assist and supervise passengers in exiting an aircraft during an emergency landing."

Maybe that headfirst roll and somersault we'd been planning for such an occasion isn't such a good idea.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.