PHOENIX - American Airlines forced a passenger to check in her carry-on bag on a flight from Baltimore to Tucson, Ariz., with her dead daughter's ashes inside, then lost the bags, according to the woman's attorney.
Iddy Pierre-Canel said her daughter, Carm-Idrelle Casseus, died at 28 years old after a battle with an unspecified medical problems.
Casseus grew up in Maryland, which is why her mom said she planned the funeral there Feb. 20, 2016, then had her body cremated.
Pierre-Canel said an American Airlines employee insisted twice she check in her bag while waiting at the gate March 5, 2016, adding it would not cost her anything.
She told 12 News she made it clear she was carrying her daughter's ashes and wanted to keep them close.
"When the plane took off, that's when I realized I didn't have my bag," said Pierre-Canel. "They said, ' Oh, they checked your bag in.'"
She explained she remembers an employee picking her bags up, but she said she was under the impression they were helping her take the bags to her seat since she was distraught; she admits she had been crying in the airport terminal.
Her attorney Lorraine Morey said her client was promised her bags would be the first off the plane.
When she arrived to Tucson, her bag was nowhere to be found.
"I begged American Airlines every day to find the urn," she said.
American Airlines released a statement regarding the incident:
When we need customers to gate check a bag, we always ask for customers to remove all valuables and important documents. Had we known there were cremated ashes in the bag, we would have had her remove them or found a place for the bag. We apologized for losing the items and certainly are very sorry for her terrible loss.
A spokesperson for the airline also said Pierre-Canel created an itemized list of what was in that bag.
There was an estimated $24,000 worth of belongings in the suitcase, but no urn was mentioned on that list.
Morey said that was simple because there was no way to assign a dollar value to her daughter's remains and that there is an extensive email train showing the concern mainly for that urn.
TSA allows passengers to decide to take crematory remains as part of a carry-on or in their checked in baggage.
American Airline prefers the former, which is what Morey said should have happened.
"The contract of carriage with the airline does state that valuable and invaluable property should be kept with the person in the cabin," she said, "and that's exactly what my client was trying to do."
Pierre-Canel is currently involved in another lawsuit with Boston Mutual Life Insurance, but she is defending herself against allegations of fraud.
The Boston Mutual complaint filed in United States District Court allege she and her co-defendant Francine J. Casseus both filed for life insurance benefits after the death of a family member.
Casseus was the original beneficiary, and she denied having anything to do with a Change of Beneficiary process on a notarized affidavit.
Morey, Pierre-Canel's attorney, does not represent her in the life insurance lawsuit but said her client has nothing to hide and is confident in that already existing lawsuit.
Nineteen days after American Airlines lost the luggage, they found the bag and returned it to Pierre-Canel.
"I went through it. I was screaming. I was hurt. I wanted to die, because I felt that I failed my child," she said. "You understand? I failed her, because my child did not die just once. I lost her twice."
The lawsuit, filed March 17 of this year is for $10 million.
According to the complaint, her daughter's wish was to have her ashes "spread across the sea in Hawaii, the South of France, off the coast of Venice, Italy and off the coast of Australia."
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