A man was extremely intoxicated when he ran over his wife in an airport parking garage, killing her after their Delta Air Lines flight landed in Utah, according to a new wrongful death lawsuit.
The couple’s child was inside the car and witnessed her mother’s death at the Salt Lake City International Airport in April 2022, a complaint filed Feb. 8 says.
Delta Air Lines is accused of overserving alcohol to Shawn Sturgeon, the child’s father, on the flight after he drank several alcoholic beverages before boarding the plane in San Antonio, Texas, according to the complaint.
The family had returned home from vacation when he killed 29-year-old Charlotte Sturgeon with their SUV at the Salt Lake City International Airport, according to police, McClatchy News previously reported.
She ultimately died at a hospital and Shawn Sturgeon was arrested on a charge of automobile homicide with criminal negligence of DUI for alcohol or drugs, Salt Lake City police said.
The lawsuit says Shawn Sturgeon was so intoxicated from the additional two drinks Delta had served him that when he got in his SUV in the airport parking lot and stepped on the gas, he didn’t realize his wife was outside the car and “in the way of his path of travel.”
A charging document says that before he ran Charlotte Sturgeon over, he “argued with his wife so loudly and viciously that it made several people in the area uncomfortable,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune. After running her over, he was accused of screaming at her to get up.
In July 2022, he was found guilty of automobile homicide and domestic violence in the presence of a child, the newspaper reported. Two months later, he was sentenced to one to 15 years in Utah state prison on the charge of automobile homicide and five years on the domestic violence charge.
The Sturgeons’ child “has suffered severe emotional distress” and needed medical care and counseling after the death of her mother, according to the lawsuit.
Two representatives of Charlotte Sturgeon’s estate — Denise Marie Nimtz, the legal guardian of the Sturgeons’ minor child, and Joseph Dalton — say Delta is liable in the woman’s death and are suing the company for wrongful acts, omissions, negligence and recklessness.
Delta told McClatchy News in a statement on Feb. 12 that the company disputes “the allegations in the complaint.”
“We cannot comment further on the pending litigation,” Delta added.
‘No memory of landing’ at the airport
According to the lawsuit, Shawn Sturgeon was “so intoxicated” after the flight that he has “no memory of landing or walking through the Salt Lake City airport.”
On the flight, Delta served Shawn Sturgeon two alcoholic drinks “with high levels of alcohol content by volume,” resulting in him becoming intoxicated “to a level well in excess of the legal blood alcohol limit, rendering him impaired” the complaint says.
When the Sturgeons got to the airport parking garage, Shawn Sturgeon put their child in the back seat and then sat in the driver’s seat, according to surveillance footage, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Shawn Sturgeon put the car in reverse while Charlotte Sturgeon opened the passenger door where her child was seated, resulting in her losing her “balance,” according to the newspaper.
Shawn Sturgeon stepped on the accelerator again, according to the video, and then reversed the car and drove over her, the newspaper reported.
He then drove to airport parking payment booths with her badly hurt inside the car and requested help, Salt Lake City police said.
One witness told investigators that prior to this, he had “aggressively” put his wife into the car as she was crying after asking “why she just did that” and saying “now I have to take you to the emergency room,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
According to the lawsuit, Delta should have known Shawn Sturgeon was intoxicated and didn’t stop him from driving and didn’t alert law enforcement about how intoxicated he was.
The lawsuit seeks to recover an unspecified amount in damages, restitution and judgment for pain, suffering, loss of companionship, lost wages, economic support, funeral costs and more.
At his sentencing hearing, Shawn Sturgeon said he is “fully responsible” for what happened on April 4, 2022, KUTV reported.
“My selfishness of over-consuming on the flight back from a cherished family vacation caused me to black out and, most importantly, caused the death of a true angel, Charlotte Sturgeon .... I will never forgive myself for what has happened but I will spend the rest of my life trying to make up for it,” he said.