Grandmother, 71, dies of fatal head injury after she trips and falls down steps as holidaymakers ‘surge‘ to board Ryanair flight

Paula Whitelaw, of Biddulph Moor, Staffordshire, suffered a fatal head injury when she tripped as a bus arrived at the terminal at Krakow Airport in Poland

A grandmother died when she fell down steps and hit her head after she was caught in a surge of holidaymakers about to board a Ryanair flight, an inquest heard.

Paula Whitelaw, of Biddulph Moor, Staffordshire, suffered a fatal head injury when she tripped as a bus arrived to transport passengers to the plane at Krakow Airport in Poland.

She was standing at the bottom of the stairs when a surge of travellers behind her created a ‘domino effect‘ and she toppled over and fell on to the tiled floor.

A waiting passenger, who was nurse, went to help and found she was bleeding from the right side of her head and called an ambulance.

She was taken to hospital in Krakow, where she was put in an induced coma. She died three weeks later. 

The 71-year-old had enjoyed a three-day trip to the Polish city with her husband Tony when the tragic accident happened at John Paul II International Airport on March 20.

An inquest into her death at Saffordshire Coroner‘s Court heard Paula, a retired personal assistant, suffered cerebral brain hemorrhage and a broken collar bone.

Her cause of death was given as cardiac arrest and heart failure due to the head injury.

Mr Whitelaw said: ‘We were called forward as priority passengers and led to a flight of stairs to the ground floor.

‘Paula was at the front of the group about three steps from ground level. 

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‘There was a surge of people and I was about three steps behind and I noticed my wife had fallen on the tiled floor on her right side.

‘A passenger who was a nurse went to give her aid and noticed bleeding from the right side of her head and called out for an ambulance.

‘The ambulance arrived and she was taken to hospital in Krakow she was diagnosed with a traumatic cerebral brain hemorrhage and a broken collar bone. 

‘She was put in an induced coma for four to five days and they tried to get her to come out of it by reducing her medication but she didn‘t.‘

Mr Whitelaw told the hearing he couldn‘t see ‘exactly‘ what caused his wife to fall.

He said: ‘There was an excited surge at the bottom of the stairs when they saw the bus, she may have stumbled or someone fell behind her. 

‘I don‘t believe we‘ll know exactly what happened at the front of that group of people.

‘I couldn‘t see her at all, I knew she was at the front but I didn‘t see her go down. There were three to four people on the floor. It was a domino effect.

‘People do not walk down the stairs to board a plane in single file, they just gradually bunch together and unfortunately Paula was at the front of it. It‘s surprising it hasn‘t happened a lot more times.‘

Assistant coroner Sarah Murphy recorded an accidental death. 

She said: ‘There was a fall down the steps, unfortunately we‘ll never know why that happened and the exact circumstances of why that happened.‘

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