By David Migoya
The Denver Post
A New Mexico man who blames consumer advocate Tom Martino for a crash that demolished an experimental airplane the radio personality once owned now wants him to pay for the ensuing pile of bills.
A week before Christmas, James Cooper filed a $152,000 claim in Martino's bankruptcy case in Denver saying the August 2011 crash of a gyroplane was the result of modifications Martino made to the craft when he owned it a year earlier.
In addition to the purchase price, Cooper wants Martino to pay every dime it's cost him to own the plane — including the meals, lodging and fuel he bought learning how to fly it in Las Vegas earlier last year, court records show.
Cooper, an Albuquerque resident, claims Martino was involved when he bought the airplane, but that Martino never told him about the modifications he'd done on it.
Not true, Martino says, adding Cooper is simply an unskilled pilot who crashed a plane and is now "lining up" to collect from the wealthy radio and television personality.
Cooper purchased the 2008 Celier Xenon RST aircraft in January 2011 for $90,000 from Golden-based New Course Aviation, which had gotten it in a trade with Martino months earlier.
The plan crashed in a field on Aug. 27, 2011, in an unspecified location. Cooper was uninjured and no investigation of the crash ensued, papers in the bankruptcy case show.
Cooper, who did not return calls for comment, claims in court papers that the crash was the result of engine failure from "fuel vapor lock" caused by modifications Martino had made to the craft's fuel and exhaust systems.
Martino said Cooper had engine problems with the aircraft several times before the crash, and had fueled the plane with automobile gasoline containing ethanol, a practice prohibited by the manufacturer.
"He heard I have a bankruptcy and that I have millions of dollars so he's lining up," Martino said. "He's a student with no skill and crashed an airplane. He's an idiot."
Too, Martino said he disclosed all his modifications in writing and certified inspectors had approved of the work before Cooper bought the plane. None of those modifications, however, were what Cooper asserts.
Cooper said he's got an offer to sell the airplane for scrap and parts. Martino's lawyers say Cooper's wants to "simply get rid of the evidence to prevent all parties from being able to properly investigate the cause of the crash."