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Man in wheelchair dies after 100-foot tumble down escalator at Metro station in D.C.

A man in a wheelchair died Wednesday after he attempted to go up an escalator at a Metro station in Washington, D.C., authorities said. 

The man tried to go up an escalator around 1:30 p.m. at the Columbia Heights Metro Station, a Metro spokesman told NBC 4 in Washington. Security footage showed the man, whose name was not released Wednesday, initially tried to use the elevator.

“A review of camera footage revealed the man waited 10 to 15 seconds for the elevator, which was in service at the time, and then diverted to the escalator,” Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly told The Washington Post

The footage showed that the man tried to steady his motorized chair by holding onto the handrails on either side of him, but the wheelchair tipped backward and fell on top of him, NBC 4 reported

While lightweight manual wheelchairs can weigh as little as 15 to 20 pounds, electric wheelchairs can weigh in excess of 200 pounds, depending on the weight of the motor and other components. 

The Post reported that the victim reached the top of the escalator before tipping over. Fox 5 in D.C. reported that officers estimated the escalator to be about 100 feet long. 

A witness to the aftermath of Wednesday’s accident told the NBC affiliate that several people attempted to help the man, who was lying on the ground, his legs covered with blood. The exact nature of the victim’s injuries were not made public. 

>> Read more trending news

“Several bystanders and the station manager immediately rendered aid until medics arrived,” Ly told the Post. “The man was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

The escalator was shut down for hours as investigators took notes and photos, NBC 4 said.  

The Post reported that while the Metro is considered one of the most accessible public transit systems in the country for people with physical disabilities, the people who must rely on the transit system’s elevators say they often encounter elevators that are out of service. 

Some Metro users voiced that same frustration on social media. 

“Incredibly tragic,” Anthony LaMesa wrote. “This man was likely so inured to #WMATA elevators being broken that he just assumed it would never come.”

Another Twitter user, Christopher Walkup, wrote that D.C. needs to become a more accessible city for everyone. 

A woman responding to a tweet last week about problems within the Metro system wrote about having to be carried up the stairs because the elevator at one station had broken down.

“I had to figure out how to get my wheelchair up & down stairs bcuz no one knew the elevator was broken & knew it wouldn’t be fixed,” wrote the woman, whose Twitter handle is Mama Penguin. “I had to be carried up while someone lugged my chair, just so we could try and find a Metro (with) working elevators late on a weekend. Not that bad my (expletive).”

Another Twitter user wrote that all he sees on Twitter is complaints about how nothing within the D.C. Metro works for the disabled. 

“And now here are your results,” the man wrote, posting a story about Wednesday’s fatal accident.  

'Emotional support' squirrel gets woman kicked off Frontier flight

A Frontier Airlines passenger at Florida's Orlando International Airport was removed from her flight by police Tuesday after she tried to bring her "emotional support" squirrel on board

The woman refused to get off the Cleveland-bound plane, so the crew called police. 

>> No dogs in shopping carts: Publix enforcing service pet policies

Frontier Airlines officials said the woman noted in her reservation that she was bringing an emotional support animal but did not indicate it was a squirrel. 

Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights, officials said. 

The crew asked the woman to get off the plane, but she allegedly refused. Orlando police were called and asked everyone to deplane so they could deal with the woman. 

Officers eventually escorted the passenger off the plane and brought her to the main terminal. 

Video shows crowds cheering as she was taken off the plane. 

>> See the video here

The incident is one of many recent cases involving emotional support animals on planes. 

In another case, a woman tried to get an emotional support peacock through security at Newark. 

In the last year, all the major airlines have changed their policies for bringing animals into the cabin. 

>> Read more trending news 

Most airlines require a note from a doctor, advanced notification and the animal’s vaccine records. 

Most airlines have also restricted which types of support animals are allowed on board. 

Delta, for example, has banned goats, hedgehogs and any animals with horns.

Hurricane Michael: Delta caps some airfares due to storm

Delta Air Lines says it is capping airfares for travel to and from certain cities in Florida and Alabama later this week due to Hurricane Michael.

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

Atlanta-based Delta said it is capping fares at $299 each way Oct. 9-11 for coach class to and from Pensacola, Panama City, Destin-Fort Walton Beach and Tallahassee, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama.

>> On AJC.com: Delta, Southwest warn Hurricane Michael could disrupt flights

First-class fares are capped at $499 each way for those cities during that Tuesday-Thursday time period.

>> Read more trending news 

Delta is also waiving certain change fees for passengers flying to, from or through those cities Tuesday or Wednesday who want to change their plans to avoid the storm. 

Hurricane Michael: Delta, Southwest warn storm could disrupt flights

Delta Air Lines is warning flights in Florida and Alabama could be disrupted by Hurricane Michael.

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

Atlanta-based Delta said flights to, from or through Florida's Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Pensacola and Tallahassee, as well as Mobile, Alabama, could be affected by the hurricane.

Delta passengers with flights booked to, from or through those cities on Tuesday or Wednesday can change their itineraries to avoid the storm without paying certain change fees.

>> On AJC.com: Delta caps some air fares due to Hurricane Michael

The airline said it is monitoring the storm, which is predicted to move through south Georgia and the Carolinas “by mid-week into Friday as the storm weakens,” according to the carrier.

Meanwhile, Dallas-based Southwest warned that flights could be disrupted in Atlanta through Friday. Flights also could be disrupted through Tuesday in Cancun, Mexico, and Havana, Cuba; and from Tuesday through Thursday in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Panama City and Pensacola, Florida, according to Southwest. 

>> Read more trending news 

Flights may be delayed, diverted or canceled, the airline said.

Southwest said customers who have flights booked to, from or through those cities on those dates can rebook without paying an additional charge, under certain restrictions.

T-Pain calls out Delta Air Lines for its music; Delta claps back

When rapper T-Pain was boarding a Delta flight last month, he was anything but thrilled to be hearing the same songs the airline often plays.

So he did what most people do these days: He tweeted about it.

>> On AJC.com: Rap star questioned after gun was found in his bag at Atlanta airport

“@Delta we gotta change these boarding/taxiing songs more often guys. All of Us Million milers (quick brag) have to hear these same joints multiple times a day," he wrote. "I gotta go perform in the staples center in a minute and Adele just put me in the weirdest mood. Now I’m crying. Thanx.”

>> See the tweet here

The person running Delta’s Twitter account responded in a good-natured way.

“Our boarding/taxing songs are intended to provide a relaxing experience. Can you imagine what would ensue if we played ‘buy u a drank’ (a personal fave), with everyone snappin’ their fingers and what not? We’d never get anywhere on time. Necessary sacrifices, Mr. Pain. *HBN”

>> See the response here

>> On AJC.com: T-Pain sues label, saying he wasn’t paid royalties for fifth album ‘Oblivion’

“Mr. Pain” (his real name is Faheem Rasheed Najm) and Delta exchanged a few more tweets before takeoff. But Delta had a surprise in store for the rapper.

When T-Pain arrived back in Atlanta this weekend after a trip to Los Angeles, he removed his headphones to hear “Buy U a Drank” playing over the the speakers on the plane.

>> Read more trending news 

“We just landing back in Atlanta from LAX and @delta decided they wanna show out and starts blastin 'Buy u a drank' over the speakers in the plane. Not gon lie it felt pretty (expletive) cool. Made me chuckle like a lil girl,” he wrote on a video post on Instagram

“Delta lit,” he said in the video.

Orlando Melbourne International Airport reopens after security breach; man arrested

Florida’s Orlando Melbourne International Airport has reopened after an early morning security breach Thursday morning, and a 22-year-old college student is now in police custody, authorities said.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT Sept. 20: Airport officials said the suspect was a 22-year-old part-time college student from Trinidad and Tobago who had a pilot’s license. Authorities had earlier said the suspect was 26.

The man parked his car outside the terminal and left it running, police said. He then ran through the grass and jumped the barbed-wired fence to gain access, officials said.

"This is a first for me. I fly out of here two to three times a year. This is an odd incident," traveler Lenny Rife said.

An airport employee saw the man enter the Airbus 321, and called airport police, who then called the Melbourne Police Department, MIA representative Lori Booker said.

The man was confronted by two airport maintenance workers inside the cockpit, but he managed to get away. The man was later tackled by the workers and held on the ground near the maintenance hangar until police arrived, officials said.

Florida Institute of Technology released this statement: “Florida Institute of Technology has monitored this morning’s incident at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. The university has confirmed that the suspect from Trinidad & Tobago is a part-time Florida Tech student studying aviation management who had completed some flight training in the past. It would be inappropriate for the university to release the suspect’s name, and law enforcement is continuing its investigation. University officials will collaborate with authorities to further review this matter. No additional information is available at this time.”

Update 7:59 a.m. EDT Sept. 20: Airport officials said a college student with a pilot’s license breached airport security and boarded a full-size passenger jet that was undergoing maintenance.

The student jumped the fence to gain access, officials said. An airport employee saw the man enter the Airbus 321, and called airport police, MIA representative Lori Booker said.

Airport police apprehended the man and called Melbourne police.

>> On WFTV.com: Check your flight status

"Melbourne Police Department responded within two minutes, " Booker said.

The student's car, which was parked outside the terminal, was towed after a robotic device searched it, Booker said. 

The FBI and the Terrorist Task Force also assisted in the investigation. 

The man, whose name has not been released, was born in Trinidad and entered the U.S. through Canada, Booker said. 

Booker also said the man had a Florida driver's license.

Update 7:08 a.m. EDT Sept. 20: The airport has reopened, Melbourne police tweeted just before 7 a.m. EDT Thursday. Travelers should check with their air carriers to see whether their flight was delayed, police said.

Original report: Florida’s Orlando Melbourne International Airport is closed due to police activity, officials said Thursday morning.

>> Read more trending news 

All flights have been suspended, officials said.

Police are asking people to avoid the area.

The airport will be closed until further notice, police said.

Melbourne officials said that a college student with a pilot’s license breached airport security and boarded a full-size passenger jet that was undergoing maintenance.

The student jumped the fence to gain access, officials said.

The student was apprehended by airport police.

The airport is being secured, and the student’s car that is parked outside the terminal is being investigated. 

The student’s name has not been released.

 – Visit WFTV.com for the latest on this developing story.

Smartphone navigation apps could be causing more traffic backups, research suggests

If you use a navigation app on your smartphone to get to work quickly, you may be surprised to learn that new research suggests those apps can make traffic worse.

>> Watch the news report here

Residents of a popular Atlanta neighborhood told WSB-TV that they have seen more traffic as navigation apps have increased in popularity. 

>> Read more trending news 

“It’s a very confusing neighborhood, a very tough place to drive,” said Bill Bolen, vice president of the Ansley Park Civic Association. “There’s this disconnect between common sense and the app that can lead to a bad outcome when you felt like you were going to get a good outcome.”

None of this is a surprise to Alexandre Bayen, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkley.

“What we see over the years is that, with the increased app usage, as more and more people use these apps, we see traffic jams appearing where there was no traffic before,” Bayen said.

Bayen’s team discovered that, when selfish navigation app routing sends drivers away from main throughways onto small surface streets, they can turn one bottleneck into several as drivers leave freeways for surface streets. 

>> On WSBTV.com: What does Atlanta's record population growth mean for traffic?

“The way a traffic app works is it routes you selfishly towards your destination as fast as possible, but it does not take into account the effect you have on the system,” Bayen said. 

Researchers said that more traffic on roads not built to support it and drivers making longer trips to save time can increase noise and carbon pollution, but there are ways to curb the congestion. 

“Alternating the urban infrastructure, such as adding stop signs, changing the mirroring lights, changing the signal timing plans for traffic lights-- all things jurisdictions can do very easily,” Bayen said. 

Georgia Department of Transportation traffic engineer Matthew Glasser said he’s already seen how retiming lights on state routes has affected navigation apps users and interstate congestion. Crowdsourced information from apps means they can anticipate traffic patterns in real time. 

>> On WSBTV.com: Atlanta traffic among worst in the world, study finds

“It’s been huge for us to have that communication going back and forth,” Glasser said. “Think of it like bypass surgery. Now that we have a blockage here, we can get around it.”

Bolen said his neighborhood has spent millions of its own dollars adding traffic circles and speed tables and narrowing streets.

“I’m sure it annoys some cut-through drivers but at the same time, it’s really increased the safety and lowered speed on our streets,” Bolen said.

Bayen and his policy researchers said traffic-calming measures, like those Ansley Park uses, are a practical solution. 

“Long-term, we see a lot of resistance happening already, by changing their own traffic patterns, making it harder to drive through their neighborhood,” Bayen said. 

Bolen agrees that navigation apps are not going anywhere, so finding solutions to negative impacts is key. 

“It’s not about keeping people from cutting through, just about insuring that everyone does it safely,” Bolen said.

Hurricane Florence: These airlines will waive fees for flights impacted by storm

As the East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence to hit Thursday, several airlines have issued travel advisories

>> On WSOCTV.com: Tracking Hurricane Florence: Live updates from the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence is currently projected to hit the Carolinas as a Category 4 storm.

Here is the list of airlines that have waived fees as of Monday evening:

American Airlines

American Airlines will waive its change/cancellation fee if you are traveling through Sept. 16 at one of these airports:

  • Georgia: Augusta, Savannah
  • North Carolina: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro/High Point, Jacksonville, New Bern, Raleigh/Durham, Wilmington
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville/Spartansburg, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach
  • Virginia: Charlottesville, Hampton / Newport News, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Roanoke

The waived fees are valid if you booked your ticket by Sept. 10.

Delta Air Lines

The Atlanta-based airline is waiving fees for flights scheduled from Sept. 13 to 16 to these airports: Charleston, South Carolina; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; New Bern, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Newport News, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; and Wilmington, North Carolina.

>> How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

The offer is valid for tickets booked by Sept. 10 and tickets must be reissued by Sept. 20. 

The airline said it is also capping air fares for flights from certain cities. The fare cap is $299 each way in coach class for flights to Atlanta from coastal cities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia through Sept. 16. Some fares may be less.

The fare caps for flights from inland cities such as Raleigh-Durham are higher, up to $599 each way for coach class to the West Coast.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines said it has enacted guidelines through Sept. 16 at airports in Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.

>> Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?

The airline has not specifically outlined what the guidelines are or if it is waiving fees. 

JetBlue

JetBlue will waive fees and fare differences for flights that are traveling in Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia.

>> 9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane

Their customers have until Sept. 20 to reschedule if they originally booked flights before Sept. 10. You can rebook online at jetblue.com or call 1-800-JETBLUE.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines said flights for Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia, could be impacted.

>> What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous?

Anyone with flights into or out of those airports from Sept. 11 to 17 can rebook without paying an additional charge. Customers can reschedule their flights online or by calling 1-800-435-9792. 

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines said it is waiving the fees for flights at Asheville, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. The original travel dates must be from Sept. 12 to 16.

>> Read more trending news 

Customers must rebook their flight by Sept. 20 or a fare difference may apply. 

– Information from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.

Parents say airline never notified them about unaccompanied children's diverted flight

Two parents in Orlando are upset after they say their children were stranded in Atlanta without their knowledge while the children were flying as unaccompanied minors on a Frontier Airlines flight from Iowa.

They say no one contacted them after the plane carrying their children was diverted to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to weather and that Denver-based Frontier should have called them to ask if it was okay to drive the children to a hotel before they decided to make that move.

>> Read more trending news

Etta, age 7, and Carter, age 9, were flying July 22 from a visit to see their grandparents in Des Moines, Iowa, back home to Orlando, scheduled to arrive at 10:46 p.m. 

But storms in Orlando caused a ground stop, and the flight diverted to Atlanta late at night.

The children stayed at a hotel with an airline worker and shared a room with four other children. It was the children’s first flight without their parents.

The incident highlights what can go wrong when children fly unaccompanied -- even on a nonstop route -- if a flight is diverted to an unfamiliar city.

While the Frontier flight diverted to Atlanta, sometimes flights get diverted to an airport in a small town where the airline may not even have staff.

“This was the first year I said okay, they’re old enough to fly on their own, they know their phone number, they know their address,” said Etta and Carter’s mother Jennifer Ignash. But when the flight got diverted, “it was like, okay, panic.”

Frontier charges a $110 unaccompanied minor fee per child and does not allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights.

The airline said in keeping with its policy, “the children were attended to at all times by a Frontier supervisor, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food. Our records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning before leaving on the continued flight. We understand how an unexpected delay caused by weather can be stressful for a parent and our goal is to help passengers get to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.”

Ignash, who was waiting at the Orlando airport for her children that night, said multiple flights were diverted from Orlando, and “when that happens, it’s just a madhouse.” She got word that the children’s flight was diverted, and tried calling Frontier’s customer service line but says they couldn’t get her information about her children.

Ignash says she didn’t get a call from a Frontier employee until the next morning.

But an older unaccompanied minor on the flight let the children use his cell phone to call and text their parents.

“Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were,” Ignash said.

Ignash says an employee using a personal vehicle took the children to a hotel, where six kids from the flight stayed in adjoining hotel rooms. The parents say they do not know who the employee was who drove the children or stayed with them in the hotel room.

“We never gave approval for that to happen,” Etta and Carter’s father, Chad Gray, said.

Alan Armstrong, an Atlanta aviation attorney Gray contacted, said he thinks there should be procedures and personnel at the airport to handle the problem.

“They just make it up as they go along,” Armstrong said.

Ignash said if parents decide to let their children fly as an unaccompanied minor, they should “understand what the airline’s policy and procedure is and get a direct contact.”

Gray said the worst part was not knowing what was happening.

“It was a bunch of circumstances that came into play all at the same time. I just don’t think Frontier is prepared to handle all those at once,” Gray said. “You like to minimize the risk that your kids have and you want to protect them. And not having any control over the process whatsoever, I think, is really, really frustrating.”

WSBTV.com contributed to this report.

Southwest Airlines employee accused of putting camera in bathroom, charged with voyeurism

A Southwest Airlines employee was arrested and charged with voyeurism Sunday morning at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle.

>> Watch the news report here

A witness told KIRO-TV that he saw Port of Seattle police officers surround the suspect and put him in handcuffs near gate B-9 about 11:30 a.m.

>> Man arrested after allegedly working out nude at New Hampshire gym

The suspect, Nicholas Williams, 25, who works for Southwest, was arrested on suspicion of voyeurism.

He was booked in to the King County Jail and appeared before a judge Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors say Williams put a camera in a bathroom at the gates that children sometimes use on their own. 

Investigators say Williams admitted he had done it four or five times before.

>> Read more trending news 

Southwest Airlines released the following statement:

"We will work with the appropriate authorities as they investigate an accusation that involves one of our Seattle employees. We do not have additional details to provide."

Besides working for Southwest Airlines, Williams also volunteers at the Chehalis Centralia Railroad and Museum. He posted pictures on his Facebook page last Friday.

The judge set his bail at $90,000. If he gets out of jail, he is not allowed to have contact with children.

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