MENTAL HEALTH

Man killed in Delta jet engine at SLC Airport had a manic episode, family says

Jan 3, 2024, 7:49 PM | Updated: 10:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a man who died after crawling into a plane engine at the Salt Lake International Airport on Monday said their son and brother was likely having a manic episode.

Judd Efinger said his son, Kyler Efinger, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 years ago. He said it was triggered by severe bullying in high school.

The family said that Kyler Efinger missed his flight on Monday. He was on his way to see his dying grandfather in Denver. His sister, Anneke Efinger said the news of his grandfather’s final days hit Kyler Efinger hard.

“It really just totally, totally flipped the switch for him. And he just is so fragile in that way. Like his line between being OK and not OK was so thin,” Anneke Efinger said.

The family said they’re still waiting on security footage and a cause of death, but they believe the stress of traveling and the pending death of his grandpa both factored into a manic episode that caused him to act erratically. They believe the episode was eventually triggered by what police called a “confrontation” that happened in the airport.

“He’s a soccer player and a skater, so I guess he ran a large distance on an open runway, you know, to this de-icing area. Unfortunately, took off his clothes,” Judd Efinger said. “But it just speaks to the state. You know, he’s just so manic at that point that he just didn’t have any rational thoughts.”

The family hopes to learn more about the moments leading up to why he ran.

“It’s just too bad that yeah, he was able to, in that state,” Judd Efinger said. “They weren’t able to get to him fast enough. And the sergeant did tell us that yesterday: ‘we’re just so sorry we didn’t get to him fast enough.’”

Kyler Efinger ran out a security exit door onto the tarmac and took his clothes off before climbing into the engine.

“You’ve got all these lights, and you know, you’re in trouble now, and somehow, he chose to crawl into the last little cave he could find. And it happened to be a jet engine,” Judd Efinger said. “And, you know, we’re super thankful that the pilot was able to turn off the engine, but I guess it was still spinning.”

Judd Efinger said his son did have a medical marijuana card and used medical marijuana to self-medicate for his bipolar disorder. The family won’t know if he had anything in his system until the toxicology report comes back.

They did say Kyler Efinger had a hard time getting professional help — a message they’re hoping to change to honor their son and brother. Kyler Efinger’s mom, Lisa Efinger, said his bullies used to tell him he needed professional help.

“So he always thought by not getting professional help, he wasn’t validating those bullying claims,” she said.

“You know there are millions of people with bipolar in this country, who are highly functioning adults,” Judd Efinger said. “And that’s our hope for other kids and other parents, is finding that professional help, and finding that middle ground of stability.”

Judd Efinger also said he plans to do more now to help other families who have kids with bipolar disorder.

“That’s what Kyler Efinger would have wanted,” he said.

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Man killed in Delta jet engine at SLC Airport had a manic episode, family says