A 3-year-old died after a fall from an airport escalator. Now his mother faces charges.
The mother of a 3-year-old boy who died after falling from a North Carolina airport escalator is facing child abuse and neglect charges.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department took out three misdemeanor warrants against Jiterria Lightner after her son Jaiden Cowart died after falling from the top of an escalator in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in late September, according to NBC affiliate WCNC.
Lightner was with her three children at the airport when the child fell. He was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and died days later from "blunt force injuries due to a fall from a height," according to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department initially labeled the death an accident but said their homicide unit was reviewing the case. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Lightner's attorney Michael Greene told WCNC that the forthcoming charges were a shock.
"I was pretty surprised," Greene said. "To this day, she still can't recount the story without breaking down," he added of Lightner.
"She's a single mother that was watching three children at an airport, and I think the circumstances could have happened to a number of us," Greene said. "I don't think they rise to the level of a crime."
"This wasn't an instance where she was not paying attention to her children," the lawyer said, adding that the mother was seated about 15 feet away from her 2-year-old, 4-year-old and Jaiden when the child fell. She was trying to arrange a ride home from the airport at the time, he said.
The kids "were between the stairs and the escalators," Greene said. "It appears that he was trying to reach over to grab the stair railing and when he tried to grab the railing, that's when he took the unfortunate fall."
An airport statement sent to NBC News said: "Our thoughts are with the family during this very difficult time. We are extremely grateful for the quick response of our emergency crews and law enforcement officers and for the medical assistance and care they provided."
The statement said the escalator was inspected and back in operation the next day, adding, "We are committed to and constantly reviewing safety and risk."
A GoFundMe set up for Jaiden's family in September said the child was an "energetic, loving and playful 3-year-old with a witty sense of humor and an appetite for fun and adventure."
"This has been one of the hardest things any parent has had to endure," the page says.
Greene said Lightner could face up to 150 days in jail.