The parents of Branden Gover, 17, a 2014 Turlock High School graduate and likely future U.S. Junior Olympian, are outraged with Southwest Airlines for allegedly causing more than $11,000 in damage to his two Olympic-level Perazzi competition shotguns and a military-grade transport case.
Teresa and Michael Gover, Branden’s parents, said they accompanied Branden to Colorado Springs’ Olympic Training Center to compete at the National Junior Olympic Shotgun Championship for Olympic-style bunker shooting, which includes 15 underground machines that shoot out clay targets at varying angles and speeds.
On July 12 the family returned from Colorado via Southwest Airlines from Denver to San Francisco Flight 292.
“When we touched down at SFO we found out that the airline lost both of [Branden’s] guns,” said Teresa Gover. “Branden was so sick, he kept saying those are my tools, what am I going to do I have another competition in three weeks.”
Teresa Gover said confusion then ensued as Southwest Airlines told her the guns were never even placed on Flight 292.
Eventually, after going back and forth arguing with Southwest, Teresa Gover said they were told a supervisor at Denver had them in his possession and they would be flown out on the next available flight, however they would have to drive home to Turlock and return to San Francisco the next day.
“We had to drive back to SFO the next morning,” said Teresa Gover. “Upon examination of the guns before we left the airport, we found they were damaged. My heart broke.”
“Both my guns… my tools… my pride and joy… damaged!” wrote Branden Gover in an update on his GoFundMe page.
“If anyone knows a pelican case is extremely strong… Each gun was wrapped in foam!” Branden Gover added. “So for this damage to take place they must have been really thrown around. I am so upset over the damage. But I will hold my head high and continue on to the next competition in 2-3 weeks.”
Teresa Gover said that the cost of repairing the guns is difficult for the family, who already spends thousands of dollars to help him reach his Olympic dream.
“Most people don’t understand that there isn’t funding for those that have a dream of being an Olympian,” said Teresa Gover. “It’s all mommy and daddy. That’s how serious you gotta be in this sport. It’s not for the light hearted. It’s a commitment, when your son says he has the Olympic Rings for dreams you work tons of overtime, you budget, pinch pennies, you give up things. His dad and I want to see him represent the USA in the summer Olympic games on day.”
A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, Dan Landson, said a supervisor with Southwest Central Bagging has “reached out to the family.”
Teresa Gover said they have talked to a representative who was stern and unaware the situation involved two guns and that the family had to drive back from Turlock to San Francisco the next day. She said the representative did not offer an apology.
Branden is now ranked 11th in the United States in the junior division. Unfortunately at the National Championship in Colorado Springs he came up just short with a clay count of 122; a count of 128 would have earned him a berth into the finals.
“He came so close, closer than ever, but that is a huge improvement over last year,” said Teresa Gover. “He’s growing in this sport and gets better and better.”
In several weeks Branden Gover will be back in Colorado Springs to compete with athletes who have participated in the Olympic Games, Pan Ams and World Cups.
To help support Branden Gover and his Olympic dream, visit his GoFundMe page.