FRANKLINVILLE, N.J. - A FOX 29 investigation: a young New Jersey pilot survives a devastating crash only to learn that his employer does not hold the important insurance policy that is vital in getting him back on his feet.
Jeff Cole and FOX 29 Investigates have the story tonight of Jason Flood and his fight for what he believes he's owed.
A warning, some of the images in this report are hard to look at.
"...This is what it's made to do. Doing the aerobatics--flips, rolls, spins..." said Flood.
Jason Flood is happy when he's around his aerobatic plane. He feels pure joy when he's strapped in its seat, control in hand---defying gravity.
"Free. I'm at home. It's a place of enjoyment. It's freedom. It's what I love..." said Flood.
Flood is a 23-year-old pilot who flies out of a small airfield near his Franklinville, New Jersey home. However, every time he soars, he remembers the day that he came tumbling to earth.
"...August 2nd. was a very devastating, life changing event for me..." he said. "I can't talk. I am in a strange room trying to figure out where I am. I can't get up to go to the bathroom. My life changed that day."
August 2nd., 2011, He's is flying low trying to hook-on an advertising banner to pull above beach goers along the Jersey Shore. Suddenly, the engine quits and Flood spirals down.
Federal Investigators found that the 20-year-old pilot made an error.
Flood says he had just moments to lift the nose of the aircraft before it slapped the earth.
"On the scene you could hear in the police recordings they said this doesn't look good," Flood said.
Jason Flood was knocked-out. Rescue workers found him bent-over and bloodied in the cockpit. Pictures show his crumpled body in the yellow tee-shirt. Flood had suffered massive injuries including broken bones, organ damage and internal bleeding.
Flood was eventually rushed to Camden's Cooper Hospital where, after 3 weeks in a coma and multiple surgeries, he emerged with rods and pins holding his broken body together.
"...How did you survive?" asked FOX 29's Jeff Cole.
"By the grace of God..." he replied.
Jason Flood's rehab was painful and long. Furthermore, he says it was made more difficult when he learned the family friend who'd hired him to fly banner planes failed to carry state-required insurance that would have gone a long way to help him get back on his feet."
That man is Herbert Degan of Woodbine, New Jersey. He can be seen behind the wheel of the Lexis recording FOX 29's Jeff Cole and his crew with his cell phone.
You can see Degan in happier times with Jason Flood in a photo posted on a web site which documents aerobatic air shows. They're also side by side in a video of a fund raiser held for Flood.
According to a State of New Jersey Workers Compensation Order, Degan's banner business Heads Up Advertising, LLC, which is under his and his wife's names, was uninsured. It did not carry state-mandated workers' compensation insurance.
While the Degan's did pay Flood his weekly wages of about 200 bucks for half a year in 2012, Flood's won a 190,000 dollar workers' compensation judgment against Heads Up Advertising and the Degan's, but he has not collected.
And there's something else you should know about Herbert Degan. He's an air traffic controller at the Atlantic City Airport. He's directed aircraft to depart and land safely for 22 years. In fact, he's listed as the "safety rep." at the Atlantic City air traffic control Tower for the National Air Traffic Controllers Union.
Jeff Cole tried to talk to Herbert Degan, but as he approached his SUV, he noticed his young son in the back seat, so he asked Degan to take his card so they could talk later.
Degan would not talk. His bankruptcy attorney, in an e-mailed statement to FOX 29, accused Jason Flood and his parents of spreading "venomous lies" about the Degan's.
He wrote that the Degan's would like "nothing more than to respond" but are unable to because the "Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case is still pending."
Herbert Degan and his wife filed the Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November of 2013 claiming that they owe between One-million and 10-million dollars.
Listed as creditors: Jason Flood for his 190,000 dollar workers' comp. judgment and the State of New Jersey for almost 1.2-milion dollars, most of it for Flood's medical bills. Those bills have now been cut to $400,000 and paid by a special state fund.
In a recording of the December bankruptcy hearing, Herbert Degan admits his banner business had no workers' compensation insurance at the time of Flood's devastating crash, but claimed it was an accountant's fault.
"He failed to obtain workers compensation insurance for us without us knowing," Degan said.
In the meantime, Jason Flood is back fighting gravity and battling for what he believes he's owed.
"I'm left in the dust, left at the bottom, trampled on again--even after the plane crash," said Flood.
FOX 29 called New Jersey accountant Michael Shumski who's listed on the Degans' bankruptcy filing. He said he did work for Degan's Heads Up Advertising but does not recall Degan asking him to arrange workers' comp insurance. He says he forwards such requests to insurance brokers. The Degan's Attorney calls the crash a "tragic event" which has forever altered the lives of the Floods and the Degans.
Degan's attorney says they will also not respond at this time due to an "open criminal charge" against Jason Flood's father. Flood's father was charged with harassment after he accused the Degan's of lying on their bankruptcy filing after that December hearing. Flood says he'll fight the charge.
Story, video, photo gallery: http://www.myfoxphilly.com
Bellanca 8GCBC Scout, Heads Up Advertising, N87020: Accident occurred August 02, 2011 in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
NTSB Identification: ERA11LA437
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, August 02, 2011 in Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: BELLANCA 8GCBC, registration: N87020
Injuries: 1 Serious.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
After the airplane’s fourth unsuccessful attempt to pick up a banner, a witness reported that the airplane was flying about 100 feet above ground level and the wings were "wobbling." The airplane then descended, and spun before it impacted the ground. The pilot stated that he did not have any recollection of the accident or the events prior to the accident. No preimpact anomalies were noted with the airframe or engine during a postaccident examination.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering near the ground, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
On August 2, 2011, at 1500, eastern daylight time, a Bellanca 8GCBC, N87020, registered to an individual and operated by Heads Up Advertising, incurred substantial damage when it impacted terrain in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. The pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, banner towing flight. The flight originated from Woodbine Municipal Airport (OBI), Woodbine, New Jersey, about 1450.
The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector stated that the pilot fueled the airplane prior to flying towards the banner pick up area. The pilot attempted 3 banner pickups prior to the accident. He maneuvered the airplane for the fourth attempt but failed to pick up the banner. The banner ground handler looked away and started to prepare the banner for another attempt, when moments later he heard a loud impact noise and observed the airplane had crashed into the ground about half mile away from the pickup area, on the crosswind for the banner tow pattern.
According to a witness, the airplane was observed flying approximately 100 feet above ground level. She noted that the wings were "wobbling" and the airplane was not climbing although it was in a nose up attitude. Next, she saw the airplane begin to "nosedive" and start spinning but was unable to see the airplane impact the ground.
The pilot stated that he did not have any recollection of the accident or the events prior to the accident.
The airplane was manufactured in 1974 and was equipped with a Lycoming O-360 series, 180-horsepower engine. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on February 3, 2011. At the time of the inspection, the reported aircraft time was 6698.0 total hours and the recorded tachometer was 2090.15 hours. The tachometer located in the wreckage 2236.91 hours.
The pilot, age 20, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued in May 2011. He reported 600 total hours of flight experience, of which, 65 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.
A post accident examination of the wreckage by the FAA revealed that control continuity was verified to all flight control surfaces. Fuel samples were taken from each wing with no water or contaminants noted. Examination of the engine was performed and the top and bottom sparkplugs were removed and no issues were noted. The crankshaft was rotated by the propeller flange and compression was observed on all cylinders. In addition, spark was obtained from the spark plug leads during the rotation.
Published on Mar 17, 2013PLEASE READ THE DESCRIPTION
WARNING: Graphic material. Viewer discretion is advised.
This is a video montage of photos that were acquired by Jason Flood, an aerobatic pilot based in Southern New Jersey. On August 2, 2011, Jason was flying a Bellanca 8GCBC Scout on a routine banner tow flight when, in the process of picking up a banner, the engine seized on the airplane and he and the aircraft crashed in Egg Harbor Township.
As a result of the accident, Jason sustained the following injuries: crushed left calcaneus heel, right ankle explosion, broken right tibia and right femur, an assortment of broken ribs, lumbar spine explosion, the total loss of his left kidney and spleen, and lastly a ruptured aorta. Jason underwent numerous surgeries to fix his heel, ankle, and tibia with rods and screws as well as the insertion of plates and screws in his body, including rods and screws in his back.
Amazingly, Jason made a full recovery. He took his first airplane flight a mere two months after the accident and flew the family's Piper Cub shortly afterwards. Ten months after the accident, in late June 2012, Jason competed in the Widlwood Acroblast competition in Cape May County, NJ, placing second in the intermediate category out of nine competitors. Not even two months after that Jason flew his first airshow performance since the accident - the airshow taking place at the New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenamon, PA.
Jason would like to thank the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, the Scullville Fire Company, the Cardiff Fire Department, and their respective EMS personnel for assisting in his rescue as well as the EMTs and pilots for the New Jersey State Police's SouthStar Medevac unit, along with staff at AtlantiCare Regional Medicare Center and Cooper University Medical Center in Camden for going above and beyond to ensure Jason got the best medical care possible. He would also like to thank his family and friends for always being by his side during that time, and of course throughout the entire recovery phase and beyond.
You can visit Jason's website at http://www.jasonfloodairshows.com
Video of Jason's performances at the 2012 New Garden Airshow can be found at http://www.zingeraviation.com .
Jason Flood poses in front of his airplane in Hammonton, New Jersey
Discover Aviation & Airshow Spectacular
9 a.m. Saturday
13000 N. Sara Road, Yukon
For Jason Flood, the Discover Aviation & Airshow Spectacular on Saturday is more than a chance to pilot his airplane for enthralled spectators; it’s his second chance at life. Flood is one of 15 pilots performing at noon at the Sundance Airport, 13000 N. Sara Road, in Yukon.
The event will include skydiving, 15-minute helicopter rides, a flight simulator, a bounce house for kids, food vendors, booths and snow cones, said Heather Sterzick, Sundance Airport manager. The free event is open to the public.
Flood is just happy to be flying, and to be alive. A crash in 2011 nearly ended his life.
He piloted a Bellanca 8GCBC during one of his regular shifts flying advertising banners on Aug. 2, 2011, in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. Flood’s plane crashed due to engine error at 250 feet while trying to hook an advertising banner in the field.
The majority of what Flood knows about the accident was retold to him by a police officer who found him lying unconscious among the wreckage. Flood suffered multiple injuries. He had broken ribs, he fractured his left heel and right ankle, his liver was lacerated, he lost his left kidney and spleen and he suffered a ruptured aorta. Doctors told Flood they performed a 17-pint blood transfusion at the hospital to save his life.
Flood was kept in an induced coma for three weeks. Once he awoke, he attempted to figure out where he was and what had happened.
“It just wasn’t a good, warm, fuzzy feeling to wake up to,” Flood said. “I never thought I’d fly again, nor did I think I’d ever walk again.”
The plane crash did not deter Flood from continuing his passion for aviation. Four months later, he was back piloting a Piper J-3 Cub training airplane and flying from New Jersey to Maryland. Ten months after the crash, Flood went on to place second in the Wildwoods AcroBlast competition, an aerobatic contest in his home state of New Jersey.
He relishes every opportunity to be able to pilot airplanes and perform for spectators at air shows.
“I just sit up there sometimes and cry to myself when I watch the sunset and fly,” he said.
Event performers include Kate Kyer, Justin Lewis, Kyle Franklin, Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys and more.
The skydiving and helicopter rides are first come, first served. Those interested in skydiving must be between 8 and 18 years of age, Sterzick said.
Guests are advised to bring their own chairs, as a crowd of about 5,000 is expected. Some indoor activities will be available.
For more information, visit sundanceairport.com/discoveraviation.