John Bruce, 64, of Arlington Heights, was killed as he helped to unload a charter jet that transported U.S troops to Kuwait.
"He was the most dependable person you'd ever know," Patty Bruce, widow, said.
Bruce had 23 years of experience as a United ramp service worker at O'Hare International Airport. He used that experience while working on United charter flights transporting U.S. military personnel to the Middle East. His family said he was working in Kuwait when he was killed in October - one year ago.
"The main thing, we want to get answers to what happened," said Michael Bruce, victim's son.
According to the Bruce family and their lawyer, Bruce and employees of a private contractor CAV International were working on a baggage conveyor belt loader to unload a chartered Boeing.
"He was walking between a Boeing 747 and a belt loader being operated by a CAV employee and the CAV employee engaged that belt loader when John was on it, without warning to John, so that the safety rail collapsed and John was catapulted 20 feet into the air onto his head," Tim Cavanagh, Bruce family attorney, said.
Bruce died days later. He is survived by his wife and two adult sons. They say they are frustrated by a lack of information about who is responsible. They said they want their lawsuit to lead to that information and improved safety for air transport workers.
"We feel this was an unnecessary tragedy and it has affected us more than I can explain in words. But if we can avoid this happening to someone else, then that should be done," Patty Bruce said.
Both Boeing and CAV International say they cannot comment because of the lawsuit. United Airlines is not a party to this lawsuit and recently named an employees' cafeteria in John Bruce's honor.