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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against NASCAR settled for $2.4 Million

NASCAR Plane Crash in Sanford, Florida near Daytona Beach

SANFORD, Florida - The family of a man who was killed in a 2007 plane crash has settled their lawsuit with NASCAR for $2.4 million. The family filed the wrongful death lawsuit after an airplane crash took the lives of 2 people in the plane and 3 people on the ground, who died when the crash started a fire in 2 homes.

In the July 10, 2007 crash, the NASCAR plane's fuselage was found inside a two-story home where a woman and her 6-month-old son died. "It was burned beyond recognition," an NTSB investigator said. The back wall of the house had to be taken down to remove the fuselage.

The 2 men in the plane had been on a flight from Daytona Beach to Lakeland when they encountered problems 10 minutes into the flight. According to ABC News, a NASCAR report indicated that smoke from an electrical fire incapacitated the two men. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the plane crash but documentation related to the settlement has been kept sealed.

Cessna 310 similar to NASCAR plane that crashed in Sanford, FLA separate settlement was reached with the family of a woman who died with her infant when the house they were in caught fire from the crash. The Cessna 310 was registered to Competitor Liaison Bureau Inc. of Daytona Beach, a company of the former chairman of NASCAR William C. France "Little Bill". Bill France died of cancer a month before the crash.

NASCAR Pilot Michael Klemm

Michael Klemm

The doomed plane was occupied by NASCAR employee pilot Michael Klemm and Dr. Bruce Kennedy, husband of International Speedway Corp. President Lesa France Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy is the daughter of the late Bill France.

Dr. Bruce Kennedy

Dr. Bruce Kennedy

Klemm, 56, and Dr. Kennedy, 54, died when their twin-engine plane crashed in Sanford, a suburban Orlando neighborhood on July 10, 2007. The crash ignited a blaze that killed three innocent people in two homes: Janise Woodard, 24, and her 6-month-old son, Josiah, and 4-year-old Gabriela Dechat. Three additional victims survived: Gabriela's parents, Peter and Milagros "Millie" Dechat were badly burned and her brother, 10-year-old Daniel Happy, remained in critical condition at the Shriner's Burns Hospital in Cincinnati.

One of the Victims Speaks to WESH TV:

Soon after the accident and before Federal Investigators issued any final reports of their investigation, NASCAR's PR machine went to work and issued its own report on the accident. The NASCAR report concluded that fumes from an electrical fire incapacitated the two pilots. The cockpit filled with smoke, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board. A final NTSB ruling is expected later in the year.

Here is the Preliminary NTSB Report on the Crash:

The report isn't being called the final word on the cause of the crash and does not make any analysis or lay blame. It only details what investigators have found and what questions are being asked.

In May, Federal investigators said that a problem with a radar display screen and pilot training played a role in a plane crash that killed the five people. The NASCAR plane, a 30-year old Cessna 310R had been reported to have an electrical problem and a burning smell by a pilot that flew it before the accident.

According to a report from WESH TV, A maintenance discrepancy log discovered at the scene of the crash had a notation that the weather radar inside the cockpit went blank the day before, and there was a smell of electrical components burning. The report indicated the radar was turned off and the smell went away, but nothing in the log indicated it was fixed.

The report also stated NASCAR's pilot was told of the radar problem before the crash, but he said he "didn't care about the radar" in a phone conversation on the morning of the crash. A NASCAR spokesman said Klemm meant that he didn't need the radar and on a clear day and could fly without radar for a short trip.

WESH TV Report:

According to the ABC News report, the settlement was in favor of Klemm's widow, and that the agreement with NASCAR included clauses to keep the settlement confidential. These "gag-order-style" clauses are utilized when large multibillion dollar corporations settle lawsuits in order to prevent the dissemination of settlement information which could be used as evidence or as negotiation leverage in other lawsuits.

According to the widow's attorney, "The purpose was to make sure the Klemm children could continue their education and be taken care of," "It was a confidential settlement and one of the main concerns was, in light of losing Michael at such a young age, how would [the sons] be able to attend college in the future."

The agreement would allow the family to make other claims toward some of the manufacturers of the plane's parts but not NASCAR and its affiliates, the attorney said. The Klemms' sons are 18, 21 and 23, court documents show.

About aircraft accidents and associated lawsuits

Although some accidents are not preventable, many are. They can be the result many factors, including pilot error, mechanical failure or air traffic control errors.

In such cases, those who are left grieving over the loss of a loved one can file wrongful death, negligence or other lawsuits against the parties responsible for the plane crash. In many plane crashes, there is more than one party responsible for the tragic events. For example, in the case of a mechanical problem, the owner/operator of the plane, the plane's mechanic and the company that manufactured the defective part may all be held liable for the plane crash.

The NASCAR plane crash victims' families, a year later

Related reports:
WESH: Sanford Plane Crash Report Released
News Journal: Pilot talked of smoke emergency

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