The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is currently under scrutiny following the tragic loss of a city employee, marking the second fatal workplace incident at the facility this year. This event, initially categorized as an accidental death by Austin police, raises serious concerns about workplace safety and potential wrongful death circumstances.
In the early hours of October 31, the worker tragically lost his life after being hit by a fuel storage vehicle near the Barbara Jordan Terminal. The area, heavily restricted and typically used for airline parking, became the scene of this unfortunate incident. The victim, identified as Michael Wills, 68, was a dedicated employee of the Department of Aviation at the time of the accident.
Details surrounding the crash remain vague, with Austin police and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducting thorough investigations. Due to the ongoing nature of these investigations, further information has not been disclosed by the authorities.
The airport community deeply mourns the loss of Michael Wills. Sam Haynes, an airport spokesperson, conveyed the collective grief, highlighting Wills' significant contributions and cherished presence as both a coworker and friend. The airport has requested the community's support in remembering Wills' family, loved ones, and colleagues during this difficult time.
Michael Wills was not only an airport employee but also a passionate entrepreneur. He owned FlySpecsUAS, an aerial photography company based in Cedar Park. His impressive background and love for photography, especially in capturing unique aerial perspectives, was well-known. Wills' move to Austin was partly influenced by the city's favorable weather conditions, essential for his aerial photography work.
The tragic incident involved a collision between a fuel storage vehicle and a Chevrolet pickup. However, specific details remain obscured due to a heavily redacted police report. Notably, the fuel storage vehicle was affiliated with Menzies Aviation, a company also connected to a previous fatal workplace incident at the airport this year.
In response to these concerning events, interim City Manager Jesús Garza has directed an urgent review of the airport's safety programs. The focus is to assess and enhance safety measures, both within the city's direct control and beyond. This initiative underscores the city's commitment to the safety of passengers and staff at the airport.
This latest tragedy follows a series of close calls involving aircraft at the airport, highlighting the need for stringent safety measures and potentially raising questions about liability and wrongful death considerations in workplace accidents. The city plans to keep the council updated on these critical safety issues.