"I knew when I got off the plane that I would never see my mother again," Carrol Amrich tells the Pueblo Chieftain
. "As soon as she took me off, I knew it." Amrich got word her 80-year-old mother had been hospitalized Jan. 16. The New York Times
reports Amrich couldn't afford the plane ticket from Colorado to Minnesota to visit her mom, so her landlord, Ines Prelas, bought her a $585 ticket for United Airlines through Traveler HelpDesk. When it became clear Amrich's mother was dying, Prelas called United and paid an additional $75 to get Amrich on an earlier flight, according to the AP
. And that's where the trouble came in. Amrich was on that earlier plane when a gate agent told her she had to get off. "They told me ... that no one flies for free," Amrich tells the Chieftain
Apparently Traveler HelpDesk got word that someone changed Amrich's ticket and refunded it to protect her from fraud. A customer service supervisor says they're "so sorry for Ms. Amrich's loss" but Prelas should have gone through them to change the flight. The United gate agent wouldn't let Prelas buy another ticket over the phone to get Amrich back on the flight—the last of the day—so Amrich started the 15-hour drive to Minnesota. She was still driving when she got word her mother had died. "I drove 1,000 miles, and she was gone before I got there," Amrich tells the Times. "I went straight through. And she was gone." Prelas says United, which had assured her it would be fine to change the ticket through them, offered to send flowers. "What are the flowers going to do?" Prelas asks. "You took away from her that she might have been able to see her mother alive."