Mom Charged With Abuse After 3-Year-Old Son Died From A Fall While Playing On Airport Escalator

A video showing the moments before a 3-year-old fell to his death from an escalator at the airport was released.

Three-year-old Jaiden Cowart died from injuries he suffered after falling from an escalator at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport in September, local NBC affiliate WBTV reports.  

After turning herself in to authorities, the boy’s mother, Jiterria Lightner, was served with warrants for three counts of misdemeanor child abuse for allowing “the child to play, unsupervised, on an airport escalator,” WBTV reports. 

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The new video recorded by surveillance cameras was released Wednesday (Dec. 4) and shows Cowart fall to his tragic death, WBTV reports. 

In surveillance images, the toddler could be seen walking around near the escalator, but Lightner is out of the frame for most of the video. 

Moments after the video shows Cowart and his siblings walking in a small space between the escalator and a parallel staircase, he and his sister latch on to the moving escalator handrail and get carried upwards, WBTV reports. 

Cowart’s tragic fall was not captured on the video, but seconds after he fell, an adult and one of his siblings can be seen heading back behind the escalator, WBTV reports. 

According to the Charlotte Douglas Aviation Department, the children could be seen in the complete surveillance footage hanging around the escalator for about an hour, and the adult with them was out of the camera’s view most of the time, WBTV reports.

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“The mother was nowhere near the child,” a witness told first responders, according to an airport incident report, WBTV reports. 

Airport Medic began to administer first aid on the child upon arriving on the scene around 9 p.m. on Sept. 25. The boy was then taken to Atrium Health’s Levine’s Children’s Hospital with life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead a few days later on Sept. 28, WBTV reports. 

“She was watching her children,” Lightner’s defense attorney, Michael Greene, told WBTV on Nov. 19. “In the event where it happened, she was literally 10 to 15 feet away.” 

Greene said they were waiting to be picked up from the airport when the incident occurred, WBTV reports. 

After the new video was released, Greene told WBTV, “You can see it’s something that happened that was tragic, but what you can’t see is exactly where the mother is and that’s not because she wasn’t there,” said Greene in a phone interview. “What you can’t see is that she’s 10 to 15 feet away and that’s because there’s no cameras where she was sitting.”

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