NJ family fights after son’s $40K custom wheelchair was destroyed by two airlines
✈ Two airlines are being blamed for the destruction of a NJ teen's wheelchair
✈ The $40,000 custom-made wheelchair was badly damaged on a flight to Spain
✈ The family left specific instructions on how to properly treat the wheelchair
WOODCLIFF LAKE — A teen actor from New Jersey and his family are fighting two airlines after they claim the boy’s custom wheelchair was destroyed on a recent trip to Spain, according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.
The family of 17-year-old Jonathan Lengel said they took all the necessary steps to protect their son’s $40,000 custom-made wheelchair from being treated like any other piece of luggage.
The wheelchair is custom-made for Jonathan’s body, ABC 7 reported.
They say the family even taped an instruction sheet to the wheelchair, with clear instructions to never put the chair on its side. But that is exactly how the wheelchair showed up on the conveyer belt when it arrived back at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
The teen, who had appeared in two movies, “Theater Camp” (2023) and “13: The Musical” (2022), was in Spain for a college music program.
During the first flight to Madrid on an American Airlines plane, the family told ABC 7 that the cushion for Jonathan’s wheelchair was damaged.
On the flight home from Madrid via an Iberia plane, they said that’s when they found the wheelchair on its side, badly damaged, and soaking left from being left out in the rain.
Several large pieces of the wheelchair had been broken off including the cover for the main circuit breaker, said Jonathan’s father, Mark Lengel, who spoke to ABC 7.
The airlines have spoken out. American Airlines issued an apology and said they are responsible only for the chair seat cushion that was damaged, according to a statement.
“It’s about 6 p.m. in Spain, it’s summertime, and it’s going to be difficult to answer you in time. We will write back with any information we can find out,” according to a statement from Iberia and reported by ABC 7.
But the family said it will take at least six months to get another custom chair and they still don’t know who will be footing the bill.