Lawsuit over deadly seaplane crash in Washington state targets aircraft operator and manufacturer
Aug 24, 2023, 7:54 PM
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)
SEATTLE (AP) — Representatives for all but one of the nine passengers killed in a seaplane crash near Washington state’s Whidbey Island are suing the aircraft’s charter operator and its manufacturer.
The three lawsuits, filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, say the companies are responsible for the victims’ deaths, The Seattle Times reported.
The lawsuits name Northwest Seaplanes and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, along with other aviation entities, as defendants. The single-engine De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Turbine Otter that crashed was owned by Northwest Seaplanes.
The pilot and nine passengers died Sept. 4, 2022, when the plane, traveling to the Seattle suburb of Renton from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, crashed into Mutiny Bay near Whidbey Island.
The crash was “entirely preventable” and the aviation companies are liable for damages, one complaint alleges. All the lawsuits are similar in their allegations and in the descriptions of the pain and suffering they say the victims faced just before their deaths.
Representatives for the estates of Lauren Hilty, 39, who was 8 months pregnant at the time; Joanne Mera, 60; Gabrielle Hanna, 29; and Sandra Williams, 60, filed one wrongful death lawsuit. Mera was a business owner from San Diego. Hanna was a Seattle lawyer on her way home from a friend’s wedding. Williams was a civil rights activist who founded a community center and Black newspaper in Spokane.
Representatives for Hilty’s husband, Ross Mickel, 47, and Remy Mickel, their 22-month-old son, filed the second lawsuit. Hilty, Mickel and Remy were returning to their home in Medina, Washington, from a Labor Day weekend trip.
Representatives for Rebecca and Luke Ludwig, a Minnesota couple who had two children, filed the third lawsuit.
Longtime commercial pilot Jason Winters and passenger Patricia Hicks, a retired teacher and Williams’ partner, also died in the crash.
A preliminary investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board found a component that moved the plane’s horizontal tail stabilizer had come apart. This left the pilot without the ability to control the aircraft’s pitch, causing it to plummet in a near-vertical descent into the water.
Nate Bingham, an attorney representing the Ludwigs’ families, said Thursday the plane crashed because of “an antiquated design with a single point of failure.”
The lawsuits allege the defendants and their subsidiaries should have maintained and inspected the aircraft and had a duty to ensure a safe flight.
Northwest Seaplanes and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada did not respond Thursday to requests by the newspaper for comment, and attempts to reach the companies by The Associated Press were not immediately successful.
Northwest Seaplanes said last year it was “heartbroken” over the incident and was working with the FAA, NTSB and Coast Guard.