A single mother has been charged with child abuse after her three-year-old son fell from the top of an escalator and plunged to his death.
Jaiden Cowart was fatally injured at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport when his clothing got caught and he was pulled to the top then dropped as mother Jiterria Lightner sat nearby to arrange transport back to their North Carolina home.
The boy was standing in the baggage claim area in between a set of escalators and stairs with his siblings, age two and four, when the incident occurred on September 25.
Lightner’s attorney said Cowart was leaning on the glass part of the escalator while his mother was 15 feet away calling her boyfriend regarding pickup details following a trip to see family in Florida.
The mother of Jaiden Cowart, three, has been charged with child abuse after he died in September while she stood 15 feet away at a North Carolina airport. Cowart died from ‘blunt force injuries, fall from height’ and cops initially called it an accident but now the homicide department is investigating
He got caught in an escalator handrail, was dragged up and then fell as he tried to save himself at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport September 25
‘They were between the stairs and the escalators when he was carried up on his arm up the escalator,’ attorney Michael 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.’
Cowart was transported to Atrium Health where he died three days later.
Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause of death was ‘blunt force injuries, fall from height’.
On a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral and future expenses, the child was described as an ‘energetic, loving and playful’ boy with a’ witty sense of humor and an appetite for fun and adventure’.
The crowdfunding effort for Cowart – whose favorite cartoons were Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and PJ Masks – had raised $5,386 of a $13,000 goal by Thursday.
The airport said in a statement that after inspection, the escalator was back in use the day after the incident: ‘We are committed to and constantly reviewing safety and risk’
‘Jaiden’s life has been tragically cut short by an unfortunate incident and we would like to honor his name and keep his memory alive,’ organizer Chynna Brown wrote.
‘This has been one of the hardest things any parent has had to endure and his parents are so grateful for any and all help.’
The airport said in a statement that after inspection, the escalator was back in use the day after the incident.
‘We are committed to and constantly reviewing safety and risk,’ Charlotte-Douglas International Airport stated.
‘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.’
Authorities initially regarded the incident as an accident but now their homicide department is investigating.
Three misdemeanor child abuse warrants were put out Tuesday for single parent Jiterria Lightner and her attorney Michael Greene (pictured) said it’s like reliving the tragedy
On Tuesday Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police put out three warrants for misdemeanor child abuse – one for each of her children – and Lightner planned to turn herself in, according to her attorney.
‘We went from saying this is an accident, now saying that you’ve committed a crime,’ Greene told Channel 9 News. ‘She was caring for a 4-, 3- and 2-year-old and trying to arrange a ride from the airport. I’m here saying she’s not guilty of misdemeanor child abuse.
‘This is one of those incidents that could’ve happened to any one of the members of this community, and, unfortunately, the decision came down to charge her with a crime.’
Greene said he ‘was pretty surprised’ the CMPD’s decision to charge Lightner who faces 150 days in prison.
The grieving parent has said she is devastated and her attorney said the new charges are almost like reliving the tragedy from two months ago.
‘To this day, she still can’t recount the story without breaking down,’ Greene told WCNC. ‘This wasn’t an instance where she was not paying attention to her children.’