Aviation News, Headlines & Alerts
Category: <span>Damages</span>

Lufthansa: Safekeeping Profits or Passengers?

crash site image

Accident to the Airbus A320-211, registered D-AIPX and operated by Germanwings, flight GWI18G, on 03/24/15 at Prads-Haute-Bléone

According to the BEA, they will release the final report on Germanwings 9525 on Sunday, March 13, 2016 during a press briefing. I plan to be there.

Although the public has not seen the final report, and indeed, as the investigation has not yet even been completed, the world already understands what happened aboard this tragic flight. What we really do not understand—and perhaps never will—is what drove Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz to research cockpit door security and methods of committing suicide. We do not know what drove a depressed human being to impel the plane and all the lives in his safekeeping into the side of a French mountain, condemning every soul aboard that plane to death. We do not know the devils that hounded him into this cold-blooded act. We only mourn, perhaps, his loss of humanity, as we mourn alongside the grieving families who have been robbed of their loved ones and their rightful lives.

All passenger/families received a total of 8 million euros, divided equally among them. Media reports on what passengers received from Lufthansa varies.

In the German media, the Rheinische Post claimed officials of the German airline said families of the 144 passengers have obtained different compensation amounts. It is also reported that Lufthansa group has paid 11.2 million euros ($12.48 million) to the families. Additional “uncalculated” compensation in “property damages” is still coming from Lufthansa to the families.

This compensation…coming from Lufthansa, whose 2014 profit was declared “flat” at a mere $31.7 billion, announced in October of 2015 a nine-month net profit of €1.75 billion ($ 1.97 billion), up 262.7% from €482 million. The tragedy which destroyed 150 lives, and crippled all of their families appears to have left Lufthansa’s bottom line untouched.

Do we also mourn and grieve and condemn Lufthansa? The depth of the ethics and principals of this many billion dollar company—the largest airline in Europe—remains to be seen. We can ask ourselves if this is a high-principled company of good repute, of sterling honor. We need not conjecture long. A tangible answer will be obvious when these decisions are made. We will see where lie their priorities when we learn how they treat the families whose lives hang in the balance in their custodianship.

Plane Flying Overhead Suspected after Chunk of Ice Smashes through Roof of Modesto House

ice holeAn aircraft flying high over Modesto, California, is being suspected after a large chunk of ice crashed through a house on September 9th.

According to the resident Monica Savath, she was with her family in the living room when they heard a loud bang. Upon checking, they found a hole in the garage’s roof and shattered ice.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mathews, it could be a loose frozen vapor from an aircraft.

Compensation after Fifteen Years

I know I’ve said before how cases take a long time. Sometimes they drag on in unexpected ways. Take for example the LAPA case. On August 31 1999 Líneas Aéreas Privadas Argentinas scheduled Flight 3142 (LV-WRZ) to fly Buenos Aires–Córdoba with a hundred and one persons aboard. The twenty-nine year old Boeing 737-204C failed to get in the air because the flight crew forgot to put the flaps in the appropriate position for flight. Instead of shooting into the air, the plane sped through the perimeter fence, across a street, struck a car and collided with a median and machinery on the road.

The accident took sixty-five lives, two of them not even on the plane. Forty aboard were injured, seventeen of them seriously. NTSB records say there were 80 fatalities and 21 minor injuries.

That’s what is widely known. What many do not know is that after the accident, nine families were given the wrong bodies. Those bodies were exhumed, checked, delivered to the correct families, and reburied at the cost of Argentina’s First Chamber of the House. The financial cost associated with all of this was covered. Not the emotional cost.

Three of those families affected will be compensated 100 thousand dollars plus interest.

In my heart of hearts, I do believe no amount of money can ever compensate for the wear and tear on the families due to the mix-up, even if at the time, the hasty mistake was well-meaning (or expedited due to politics.) Can you imagine what the families went through, seeing the resting places disturbed, then having to endure new funerals? It must have been like losing them more than once—refreshing the whole misery of loss a multiple of times. I cannot help but wonder about the families who were not compensated. I wonder if it has been so long that there is no one left to pay.

This can be of no assurance to the families of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. It is further proof that aviation crash cases do take a long time. Tragedy is tragedy. There is no best case scenario in a tragedy.

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Will Yemenia Airways Be Held Accountable at Last?

In 2007 there was this Airbus A310 that failed to pass inspection in France and was therefore banned from French Airspace. The plane was still in use though. Yemenia Airlines quit flying the plane over French Airspace, limiting its routes to non-euro airspace like the hop from Sanaa to the Comoros.

Listen, I’ve heard some bad things about some planes but the descriptions I saw of this plane are so vivid I remember them, even though its been nearly five years. Frankly, the description sounded straight out of Romancing the Stone like the bus that takes Kathleen Turner (romance novelist Joan Wilder) to Cartagena, Colombia—crowded to the gills, livestock inside, seats rolling around, standing room only, everything that was portrayed in the movie, except (one hopes) people hanging off the outside of the plane. This rickety plane, which failed to meet safety standards continued to be in use until it crashed one stormy night in 2009.

Now, five years later, France is charging Yemenia Airlines with manslaughter.

I wonder at the timing. Apparently Yemenia Airlines is no longer on the EU banned list.

I wonder if they waited for Yemenia Airlines to become more solvent before they charged them.

I wonder if International Lease Finance Corporation is going to be held accountable. They leased the plane to Yemenia; and, like a father who hands his fifteen year old the keys to his car, they could have taken away the keys, or withheld them till the plane was brought up to code.

I wonder if the delay was five years worth of research, and maybe evidence found.

I wonder if another accident or enlightening incident happened that pointed the finger at Yemenia.

I wonder if it was pressure from the families of the 153 passengers and crew (and little Bahia Bakari the twelve year old miracle survivor) aboard that international flight from Sana’a, Yemen to Moroni, Comoros that crashed on 30 June 2009.

Pressure from the families brings change. I have a lot of confidence in family groups. Plane crash victims are united by a common cause, a cause which is ethical and pragmatic and yet impossible, because they are seeking justice when there can really be none. Because all these people want, if they could have their way, would be to have their loved ones back. They have the power of right on their side; and to make a galvanizing cause even more magnetic, they are fighting for the safety of every future airline passenger. I wish my friend Hans Ephraimson-Abt, who died last October, could be here to witness the charges being brought. He lost a daughter when her plane was shot down in 1983, and ever after made it his business to advocate for families. I think of him now because up until October, whenever I’d post an editorial concerning crashes, or family groups, he would always write back with encouragement, or some pithy bit of advice.

Maybe I should be objective. After all, helping families in crashes is my business. But when you’re on the front lines of aviation safety trying to get better treatment for victims and the families of victims, it doesn’t take long to feel very personal. There are a lot of people who saw those headlines that France is charging the carrier with manslaughter who think that after four and a half years, it is about time. I just hope that somehow the 152 victims—and Hans—could know that the responsible parties may yet be held accountable.

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Mishaps of the day

Some events that happened today:

  • December 16, 2013, on JetBlue Flight 836#N661JB, the Airbus A320 arrived at the gate at JFK airport, New York, and the left wing struck the jet bridge. There was only minor damage and no injuries reported.
  • In Farmington NY on December 17, 2013, a Piper PA28#N43080 engine caught fire when the plane started up. The fire was extinguished, with unknown damage.
  • December 16, 2013, a Lancair/235#N15TG landing at John’s Island Charleston SC, when the nose gear collapsed. Minor damage was reported.
  • December 16, 2013, a Cessna/172 #N421ER was taxiing when the wing struck a light pole. The accident occurred in Wickenburg Arizona. Minor damage was reported.
  • December 16, 2013, an experimental plane, a Zenith 601#N581SL crashed in Leakey Texas under unknown conditions.

Passengers denied fair compensation’ by British Airways

Here’s the situation–after the problematic Oslo flight, British Airways paid for food and hotel accommodation for stranded passengers who had been on the flight, but they deny further compensation. This is apparently British Airways attitude in regard to “thousands of passengers” impacted by the closures caused by the BA flight, according to Travel Weekly.

BA’s cancellation of 200 flights after the Oslo flight issue led to Heathrow’s brief closure (of two runways.) 200 flight cancellations affects a whole lot of people.

In this case, the European Commission’s new guidelines are going to be tested. Clyde and Co. said if the closure was a bird strike, BA would probably be off the hook, but if it was due to faulty maintenance, that’s their responsibility.

In my opinion, BA deserves all the ass kicking they get and a whole lot more for their laxity in accepting responsibility. I hope the passengers all sue for their damages. Maybe, just maybe a lawsuit will send a message to the operators of huge airline companies.

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€10,000 Awarded for Child Trauma

Two year old Emma Reddan witnessed a Sikorsky S76 piloted by Bill Curry crashing in the Neptune Hotel car lot. The chopper’s rotor blade struck a lamp post, resulting in the crash.

Emma Reddan suffered from separation anxiety disorder.

In Civil court, Judge Matthew Deery approved a €10,000 settlement for Emma Reddan from Curry and GP Helicopter Services Ltd, of Woodstown Dale, Knocklyon, Dublin, and Barrack Construction Limited, Thomastown, Caragh, Naas, Co Kildare.

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David Disiere Southlake Aviation Awarded $32-Million Damages in Congo Gold Smuggling Case

In a civil trial that sounded like a real life James Bond spy novel, a Dallas County Jury awarded Southlake Aviation, owned by Dallas business executive David Disiere, $32.4 million in damages against Houston based oil company, CAMAC International, its subsidiary CAMAC Aviation, and Mickey Lawal CAMAC’s Vice President of African Operations.
The case stemmed from a scheme in which CAMAC International and its officers used a Gulfstream V jet leased from David Disiere’s Southlake Aviation to try to spirit more than ten thousands pounds of gold bullion out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with help from General Bosco Ntaganda, a notorious Congolese warlord.

Following the verdict, Southlake Aviation’s President, David Disiere praised the jury’s decision, “twelve citizens saw through a smoke-and- mirrors defense put on by the CAMAC’s attorneys and clearly found that CAMAC caused my company to loose a $43 million dollar aircraft in a greedy scheme that violated the U.S. Trading With The Enemy Act.”
The jury heard riveting testimony from a diamond trader involved in the scheme describing how CAMAC executives Kase Lawal, Mickey Lawal, and Kamoru Lawal arranged to exchange two-oversized suitcases stuffed with six-and-half million dollars in cash for ten boxes of gold delivered by General Bosco Ntaganda’s armed forces.

An investigation of the smuggling incident by the United Nations Security Council found that CAMAC and its three top executives, Kase Lawal, Mickey Lawal, and Kamoru Lawal were dealing with “individuals operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and committing serious violations of international law involving the targeting of children or women in situations of armed conflict.”

Kase Lawal, Mickey Lawal, and Kamoru Lawal who are Nigerian American brothers invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination hundreds of times during their testimony in the case.

Houston energy executive, Kase Lawal the former CEO of CAMAC International and the current CEO of the publically traded CAMAC Energy Inc. was appointed to a White House Trade Advisory position by President Obama and serves on the boards of the Houston Port and Airport Authorities.

David Disiere, the Dallas business executive and owner of Southlake Aviation, told the jury how he was shocked to get a call in the dead of night informing him that his company’s 43-million dollar Gulfstream V jet aircraft loaded with ten boxes of gold had been confiscated in Goma by authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on February 5, 2011. The jury’s verdict also included compensation of more than 535-thousand dollars for repairing damage done the to the aircraft’s interior passenger compartment during the loading of the gold.

Because Southlake Aviation’s aircraft was confiscated in the Congo, VFS Financing a subsidiary of General Electric, automatically placed Southlake Aviation’s loan to purchase the Gulfstream V in default, accelerated the entire balance, and repossessed the aircraft.

Testimony in the case and the investigation by the United Nations also indicated that former Houston Rocket’s basketball star Dikembe Mutombo acted as an intermediary in the gold smuggling scheme.

Testimony in the case showed that David Disiere had never met the Lawal brothers. Disiere testified that CAMAC had signed a three-year lease for Southlake’s Gulfstream V jet and claiming it would use the jet was to travel between its Houston headquarters and oil operations in Nigeria.

The jury agreed with David Disiere’s testimony that CAMAC and its officers violated the terms of the aircraft’s lease by using it in an outlaw region of Africa.

The Only U.S. Family Settles

The families of Mike and Anne Harris have settled their lawsuit against Air France. Michael was 60, from Greenville, South Carolina, a graduate of Clemson University, an expert in geology and oil field operations with Devon Energy in Rio and West Africa Group. (Devon Energy is based in Oklahoma.) Ann was 54, from Lafayette. She suffered from Fibromyalgia, was Fibromyalgia Association of Houston volunteer and a physical therapist. They had been married sixteen years, by the time they booked the fatal flight; and the trip was business and pleasure, because they were going to a training seminar in Paris, and for vacation. They left behind them friends in Lafayette, Houston and Brazil where they had lived.

Mike and Anne Harris were the only Americans on the flight. According to their lawyer, the case has settled.

Crash History
The 4 year old Air France Airbus A330-200 en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris when it went missing over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Two hundred sixteen passengers (including seven children and one baby, 82 women and 126 men) and 12 crew were aboard. There were two Americans and 60 French citizens were on the plane. Italy said at least three passengers were Italian.The pilot had 11,000 hours of flying experience, and 1,700 hours flying this aircraft.

The last known radio contact was an automatic message made at 0133 GMT when the plane was near the Island of Fernando de Noronha; since then, the airplane has made no radio communication. Fifteen minutes after flying through a storm and strong turbulence, there was an electrical short-circuit. Search planes left Fernando de Noronha Island looking for signs of the plane concentrating in an area 230 miles off the northeast Brazil coast. The flight left Rio at 7 p.m. and was expected in Paris on Monday at 11:15 a.m. The wreckage broke apart, the pieces scattered at sea, and the black boxes were not recovered until May 2011.

It is an interesting time to settle the case–right when the world is on the cusp of discovery of what caused the crash.

Skydiving Crash Victims Awarded by Jury

Doncasters Inc. of London is a manufacturer of aviation components. They were recently held accountable for the death of five victims of the crash of a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, the skydiving plane which exploded at the Sullivan airport.

Six people were killed: Melissa Berridge, 38, of St. Louis; Victoria Delacroix, 22, of London; Robert Cook, 22, of Rolla, Mo.; Rob Walsh, 44, of St. Louis; Scott Cowan, 42, of St. Louis were awarded four million each, and a portion of $28 million in punitive damages.

David Aternoster, 35, also died in the crash but his relatives were not part of the lawsuit. Jim and Scott Cowan, owners of Quantum Leap Skydiving were piloting.

Eight engine failures are believed to be due to a defective Doncasters part according to aviation experts, air crash investigators, metallurgists and aircraft design engineers.

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New Lows for Air India Crash Compensation

Compensation disbursal has hit a new low. It was recently published on the Khaleej Times site that Air India’s insurance company is calculating compensation claims based on ‘the loss of livelihood” rather than “loss of life.’ Loss of life according to the Montreal Convention (in terms of Indian currency) amounts to nearly Rs7.5million. Advocate and solicitor Hoshang D Nanavati, who represents Air India’s legal counsel, is saying they are settling cases where the issue of applying 100,000 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) equivalent to $160,000 did not arise.

Compensation is complicated—a complicated process, and it is frequently misunderstood.

Families understand, or are made to believe that soon the carrier will be coming around to pay no less than $100,000 SDRS less the amount of the advance they received. This is not always the case. If the emergency advance was $10,000 and that 100,000SDRs equates to $151,000 US dollars, the family is entitled to the $141,000 that is still due under the treaty ONLY IF THEY CAN PROVIDE THE DOCUMENTATION. To qualify, documents must show that the person who died had a life span long enough to earn at least that amount based on the decedent’s profile, hence the term above, “loss of livelihood.” It’s always been my opinion that the Montreal Treaty, as other treaties/conventions before it, is not intended to protect the passenger. It’s to protect the operator of the airline from being sued for more than the amount called for in the treaty. The 100,000 SDRs is not a right, it’s a cap, the maximum that, in addition to a small amount for baggage, the operator will have to pay each family of a decedent unless negligence is proved. (Negligence can creep into the picture in a number of ways, such as lack of maintenance, or inferior pilot training leading to pilot error.)

The insurance companies and lawyers commonly require a global release upon payment of any funds, so even if they paid the maximum per the treaty, if more culpable parties turn up, those who signed too early have signed away their rights. If a global release was required before operator paid the compensation, all doors would be shut to sue anyone else later found responsible, such as the manufacturer of a component or the manufacturer of the aircraft.

Keep in mind that we don’t even have a final report on the cause of the crash, other than bits and pieces about pilot error. Other responsible parties may turn up.

The loss of a decedent is handled by profile. It is NOT generic. The loss is based on the person’s age, employment, if not employed, what did he do when he was employed, then how many children, wife/husband, who else depended on the decedent for support, was he the bread winner for how many? All these factors play into what make determining compensation complicated. But in this circumstance, that cap is not a baseline, it is a ceiling.

And unless you have a top earner, there is nothing to negotiate beyond the economics which depend on the country (in this case, India.) And then there’s pain and suffering, and how each country handles it. In India, it is possible that pain and suffering is not even considered. In some countries, there may be a fixed amount for pain and suffering; or it may be banned all together. What happens to the family member in India who was not a top earner?

For those families who are trying to hold out for the compensation they deserve, for authorities to say cases are delayed because of pending case opposition is just a typical delay tactic. There’s always the ambition on the part of airline and insurance lawyers that the families who are most in need of cash will capitulate and accept lesser compensation. The longer the lawyers take, the more red tape and loopholes the families have to weave through, the longer the families have to struggle along, make their bills, and stretch out whatever interim compensation the law has allowed. The more likely they are to capitulate and accept less.

When the Indian Civil Aviation Minister assures speedy disbursal of maximum compensation, if he is thinking of his constituents, is he referring to maximum compensation to take care of widows and orphans, or that completely different number that the insurance companies and airlines would like to redefine as “maximum,” in other words, the least possible that they can legally get the victims to accept?

The Montreal Convention is a treaty that governs international aviation incidents. The airline is automatically liable for up to 100,000 Special Drawing Rights I mentioned above. But an airline is liable to claims over that limit if it is unable to prove that the crash was not due to the negligence or wrongful act or omission of the company or any of its servants, or that the crash was solely due to the negligence or wrongful act or omission of a third party.

If there is no cap, because of the certain pilot error, shouldn’t that victim, even if a low earner, at least get the cap amount? Their life has value. Every life has value.

Air India’s parent company, National Aviation Company of India Ltd said that next week they will make public the steps toward safety taken during the past year. “We are now preparing a whole list of what all actions we have taken. That should come out in public domain in a week’s time.”

That is a very good thing. I look forward to seeing the list of actions taken that comprise improvements, for is also the selfsame list of practices which were negligent in 2010. Every item on that list should be financially compensated as an action which was denied the victims of the Mangalore crash.

I wish there were some way to empower the struggling families to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if they do not cave in to lesser offers. The pain and suffering, the loss of life, the decreased quality of life, and the loss of income are very real. They have more than the emotional weight which the families are suffering, but also a physical reality reflected in concrete family circumstances.

The families are living through a terrible ordeal, and the song and dance that the victims are being forced to endure is unnecessarily cruel punishment.There is no question that the airline and insurance companies bear the responsibility; they should just stop playing a numbers game, stop extending the misery, and just provide the families the compensation they deserve.

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Survivors Have Rights Too

Click to view full size photo at Airliners.net
Contact photographer Andrei Visan

What is a life worth?

It appears that Manx2 Airlines doesn’t think a life is worth very much. Manx2 denied an advance payment of more than £15,000 to cover the costs of a crash survivor (Cork Airport) to fly by aircraft from Cork University Hospital to the U.K. They are trying to shift responsibility to BCN.

On the second approach to runway 17 the right wing-tip of the Swearingen SA-227BC Metro III hit the runway, flipping the aircraft upside down. The plane slid 190 metres along the runway and came to rest in the grass adjacent to Taxiway C when fuel tanks leaking fuel in the right wing caught fire.The leased plane crashed on Feb 10, 2011, killing 2 crew members, and 4 passengers. There were 6 survivors.

After a horrific accident like that, you’d expect Manx to step up to the plate.

When someone dies in a crash the question is asked: what is this life worth? You may not hear it in that many words, but it is there. The value of a human being, translated into dollars and cents. When someone survives a crash as 6 did in this instance, it is difficult not to see Manx’s petty delay tactic as a slap in the face.

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Helicopter Lawsuit Filed, $16 Million

The family of flight paramedic Mickey Lippy is suing the FAA for negligent acts leading up to the crash on September 28, 2008, when Maryland State Police Trooper 2 (Eurocopter AS 365N1 Dauphin, N92MD) disappeared from radar and crashed. TFC Mickey Lippy, was one of the five people aboard. The others were Pilot Stephen Bunker, EMT Tonya Mallard (Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department), and two patients on board, one of whom survived.

According to the suit, the FAA visibility data was hours out of date, and ATC was unresponsive and inattentive.

The case seeks 15 million for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship and loss of parental care and a separate case is pending for $1 million on behalf of Lippy’s pain and suffering.

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Cougar Flight 491 Suit Settles

Sikorsky, Keystone Helicopters and their parent company, United Technologies Corp. have settled in court with the the families of passengers who died on March 12, 2009. In court last July plaintiffs “voluntarily discontinued” the lawsuit to begin negotiations on a possible settlement. That settlement has been resolved, but the details are not public.

Because pilots believed the Sikorsky met U.S. FAA regulations that the aircraft could operate for 30 minutes after losing oil, they flew toward the shore rather than landing on the water.

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Dangerous and negligent Use of a Helicopter

Sean O’Brien of the Island, Ballycumber, Co Offaly, was convicted on ten charges( relating to landing on the roof at the Parkrite Texas Centre, Athlone, Co Westmeath on 7 July 2007 to collect a set of keys) has been given a six month suspended sentence and fined €5,000.

The most significant charge applied is dangerous and negligent use of a Helicopter.

Failure to use common sense is not a charge.

The defendant holds a US pilots’ license but is a man of ‘no means’ who did not own the helicopter and is on disability.

The judge said, “You are telling me in Florida there are no regulations in relation to landing a helicopter on top of a supermarket?”

It is illegal under aviation law to land an aircraft of this kind on any elevated helipad in Athlone.

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Helicopter Crash Survivor Awarded 4.5 Million

Central District of California, the Hon. Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that in Melanie Bailey, et. al. v. United States of America Department of Transportation (Federal Aviation Administration) – Case #CV 06-1191 FMC(VBKx)

27-year-old Gavin Heyworth, a former Marine sued the FAA after the November 6th, 2003 collision in which Heyworth was flying solo when he collided with another helicopter. The U.S. District Court ruled that negligent air traffic controllers gave confusing instructions to Heyworth who was a student pilot at the time.

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Camp Pendleton Crash Resolved in Court

Jurors are sending a message to big business.

The only way to hurt big business is through the pocket book. When you hit them there, they eventually come around to doing what is right.

After this California wrongful death lawsuit verdict, my bet is that SDG&E will develop a belated conscience and will install safety devices or ball markers to help prevent this type of disaster.

So we are offering congratulations to the jurors for using their voices; and congratulations to the families. No amount of money is going to bring back those precious four lives, or ever ease the pain of their families, but, at the very least we can hope that the families will have some comfort that a small measure of justice has been served.

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Suit settles at $13 million

Heirs of six people killed in a March 26, 2005 Penn State plane crash recovered $13 million in civil damages although a judge ruled that they cannot sue the plane’s manufacturer in federal court in Pennsylvania on the basis that Pilatus had minimal ties to Pennsylvania and could not be sued in the district.

Their private plane spiraled downward and crashed miles from University Park Airport.The NTSA board concluded the flight failed to maintain enough speed to avoid stalling.

Two Providence, R.I. victims were pilot Jeffrey Jacober; his wife, Karen; their 15-year-old son, Eric; Gregg Weingeroff, 49; his wife, Dawn, 42; and their 10-year-old son, Leland.

The Penn State lacrosse team helped fund an annual scholarship named for the Jacober family.

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