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Representatives of Whidbey Island floatplane crash victims sue

Jun 23, 2023Jun 23, 2023

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WHIDBEY ISLAND STATION, Wash. — Representatives for some of those killed in the 2022 floatplane crash off Whidbey Island filed three lawsuits Aug. 22 against several companies involved in the plane's production and operation.

A total of 10 people, including the pilot, were killed when the plane crashed on Sept. 4, 2022.

Companies in the lawsuits include: Viking Air Limited, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited, Longview Aviation Capital Corporation, Northwest Seaplanes, Inc., and West Isle Air, Inc.

One lawsuit alleges that Viking, DHC and Longview are responsible for the crash and damages "because they had a duty to ensure the continued flight safety of the plane ... including providing appropriate technical solutions before avoidable crashes like this occur."

Friday Harbor, the charter operator, is responsible, according to the lawsuit, because "as the common carrier, they owed the [victims] the highest duty of care to safely transport them from place to place."

Northwest Seaplanes, the maintenance facility, is allegedly responsible because "they had a duty to maintain and inspect" the plane, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs in one lawsuit include representatives for the estates of Lauren Hilty; Hilty's unborn child, Luca Mickel; Joanne Mera; Gabrielle Hanna and Sandra Williams. A representative for the estates of Rebecca and Luke Ludwig, who were from Minnesota, and a representative for the estates of Ross Mickel and his son Remy Mickel each filed separate lawsuits.

"[The Ludwigs] were both absolutely devoted parents," said Nate Bingham, a partner with Krutch Lindell Bingham Jones. "They coached sports teams, they picked their kids up from school, they were with them all the time, and not only that, I think it's important to understand how important Becca and Luke were to their community as a whole."

Bingham said Becca's friends described her by sharing that she liked to model friendships for her children, and Luke was known for his devotion to his kids -- putting a batting cage in their backyard in the summer and recording stats at every hockey game.

"Their lives revolved around their kids and I can't overstate how much of a loss it was to their kids and their community," Bingham said.

Partner Jimmy Anderson said passengers expect redundant systems on aircraft that will keep them safe.

"This was a preventable accident," Anderson said. "The fact that it happened is completely unacceptable. This aircraft was flying with a single point failure mode for a safety critical control component, and what that means is that if one piece fails, the whole aircraft is unflyable."

The plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton Municipal Airport when it crashed into Mutiny Bay.

The NTSB released its preliminary report which detailed the moments leading to the floatplane crash.

According to the preliminary report, witnesses near the accident site reported the airplane was in level flight before it entered a slight climb and then pitched down in a near-vertical descent. Several witnesses described the airplane as “spinning,” “rotating” or “spiraling” during portions of the descent. One witness reported hearing the noise from the engine and propeller, but there was not any “pitch change” in the noise.

During the examination of the floatplane's wreckage, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) said it found a clamp nut that attaches the top eye and bearing assembly of the horizontal stabilizer actuator to the actuator barrel had unscrewed from the barrel.

The examination reportedly found the circular wire lock ring, designed to prevent the clamp nut from unscrewing, was not present. If they become separated, the actuator would not be able to control the position of the horizontal stabilizer, resulting in a reduction or loss of pitch control, according to the NTSB.