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Down syndrome child stopped from flying

Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:14 PM

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A boy with Down syndrome was prevented from boarding a plane from Newark, N.J., to Los Angeles, his outraged parents said.

Bede Vanderhorst, a 16-year-old with Down syndrome, was stopped by airline officials and not allowed on the American Airlines flight he was supposed to take with his parents, Joan and Robert Venderhorst. Joan Vanderhorst began videotaping the incident on her cell phone, telling KTLA-TV, Los Angeles, she believed her son's civil rights were violated. She also said it was a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the video Joan Vanderhorst can be heard sobbing and Robert disputing the matter with airline officials. Bede is seen sitting quietly playing with his hat.

The couple told the TV station they have flown with their son dozens of times without incident. They believe they were targeted this time because they had upgraded to first class.

"This little boy had a seat in the first class area, and for some reason, they didn't want that. That wasn't acceptable," she said.

A spokesman for American Airlines disputes the family's claim, saying the child was excitable and running around. The airline said the pilot unsuccessfully tried to calm the boy down before telling the family he presented a risk to passenger safety. Eventually airport police were forced to intervene in the dispute and the Vanderhorsts were booked on a United flight instead.

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