Flight mixup strands elderly woman

Employees at US Airways are looking into how an 83-year-old woman in a wheelchair flying Monday from New York to Tampa instead found herself at an airport in Puerto Rico.

Elfriede Kuemmel had gone to Newburgh, N.Y., for a day trip, said daughter Vera Kuemmel.

Elfriede Kuemmel was to take a flight from Stewart Airport in Newburgh to a connection in Philadelphia that would bring her to Tampa, her daughter said.

Somehow an attendant wheeled Kuemmel to the wrong flight, her daughter said.

Vera Kuemmel said she talked to her mother by phone at 9:30 p.m. Monday and was told her mother was waiting in the baggage area.

However she could not find her mother and began to panic, she said.

It was only after airport workers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and an airport police officer at Tampa International Airport became involved that everyone realized Elfriede Kuemmel was in San Juan.

She spent the night in Puerto Rico and arrived at the Tampa airport about 9:50 p.m.

Visibly tired, Elfriede Kuemmel spoke briefly to several reporters.

"I'm feeling numb," she said. "I'm looking forward to sleep."

A US Airways spokesperson said the airline paid for her food and hotel and flew her home first-class.

The company has not concluded its investigation of the event. "We have apologized to the family," the spokesperson said.