Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed in Southern California Plane Crash

airplane accident

In June of last year, a small private plane crashed in El Mirage Dry Lake, a popular recreational and camping area in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County north and east of Los Angeles. The pilot and co-owner of the plane, an experienced helicopter pilot and 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, died at the scene, while his passenger, an eight-year old boy whose father was apparently friends with the pilot, died several days later from injuries sustained in the crash. It appears that the American Aviation Grumman AA-1A experienced some sort of mechanical trouble which sent it into a nosedive, and although the pilot attempted to recover and land the plane, he was unable to do so. The plane entered into several barrel rolls before crashing into the dry lake bed.

The mother and father of the boy who died have each filed separate wrongful death lawsuits against various parties who may bear some responsibility for the crash. The father filed suit in March of this year against the estate of the pilot for failing to operate the plane with reasonable care. The co-owner of the plane was also sued for allegedly failing to maintain the plane appropriately. Finally, the father’s negligence and wrongful death suit also named the Los Angeles Fire Department as a defendant. It is clear that the pilot and other LAFD firefighters were camping in the area and taking turns piloting the aircraft. It also appears from the father’s complaint that the LAFD had sponsored an event at the lake that day, and that LAFD equipment was on the plane. The complaint also alleges that an authority from LAFD tried to suppress a video that may be relevant to the crash investigation or lawsuit.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother in Los Angeles Superior Court also names the pilot and the plane’s co-owner as liable for negligent operation and maintenance. Additionally, her suit includes American Aviation as the plane’s manufacturer and alleges that manufacturing defects and design defects played a role in the accident. The boy’s father has also been named as a nominal defendant in the mother’s lawsuit.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. The NTSB has released preliminary information on the accident but has not yet come to a probable cause determination regarding the crash.

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