Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Plane Crash: Learjet 35A, Diplomat Aviation, N17UF

The estate of the only American citizen on board the ill-fated Learjet 36, which crashed in bad weather on November 9 in Grand Bahama, has filed a legal suit against Diplomat Aviation.

Diego Desantiago, a Colorado resident and evangelical minister, was killed when the plane carrying Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife with several other Bahamas Faith Ministries ministers, struck a crane and crashed in the Grand Bahama shipyard.

The suit points to pilot error as the basis for their claim, according to court documents filed in the District of South Carolina. Desantiago’s estate, represented by his brother Juan Desantiago, has “strong viable claims” against Diplomat Aviation.

It was revealed by this newspaper in December that lawyers representing Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Ltd, the company under which the Learjet was registered, were embroiled in a court battle with a US-based insurance company over the payout from a $10m liability policy.

The latest documents said: “The question of liability coverage is the sole issue presented by the declaratory judgment proceeding. The Desantiago Estate undeniably has a significant interest in this issue.

“Although the investigation into the crash of the subject aircraft is not yet complete, preliminary information points to pilot error as the likely cause. Thus, the Desantiago Estate has strong viable claims against Diplomat Aviation for Desantiago’s death.”

The final report of the incident, reported in The Tribune on Monday, blamed poor decision-making of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent below the authorised altitude.

The documents added: “The sole issue presented by the Declaratory Judgement proceeding is whether XL Insurance will be required to indemnify Diplomat Aviation for up to $10m (the amount of liability coverage) as a result of the crash of the subject aircraft.

“In the event that there is no coverage it is quite possible that the Desantiago Estate would find itself without remedy for Diego’s death. It is unknown whether Diplomat Aviation, apparently a Bahamian corporation, has available assets to satisfy any judgement entered against it.

“Accordingly, the disposition of this Declaratory Judgement proceeding would impair or impede the Desantiago Estate’s significant interest in the question of liability coverage.”

“If XL Insurance prevails in this action, Diego’s estate’s recourse for negligence of the flight crew will likely be against only Diplomat Aviation, an alleged uninsured corporation,” the documents said.

Nearly four months after the crash the final report said: “The Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Unit (AAIPU) has determined that the probable cause of the incident was ... the poor decision-making of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) below the authorised altitude, without visual contact with the runway environment.

“A fireball lasting approximately three seconds was observed as a result of the contact between the aircraft and the crane. The right outboard wing, right landing gear and right wing fuel tank separated from the aircraft on impact.”

“This resulted in the aircraft travelling out of control, some 1,578 feet, before crashing inverted into a pile of garbage and other debris in the City Services Garbage and Metal Recycling Plant adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard.”

The jet was “some 3.2 nautical miles from the runway threshold” when it struck the crane, the report says.

Story, comments and photo: 

NTSB Identification: ERA15RA047
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Sunday, November 09, 2014 in Freeport, Bahamas
Aircraft: GATES LEARJET CORP. 35A, registration: N17UF
Injuries: 9 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On November 9, 2014, about 1652 eastern standard time, a Gates Learjet Corp 35A, N17UF, registered to Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Ltd., was destroyed when it impacted a crane and terrain during approach to Grand Bahama International Airport (MYGF), Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas. The airline transport pilot, copilot, and seven passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated from Lynden Pindling International Airport (MYNN), Nassau, Bahamas, about 1600 and was operating under Bahamian flight regulations at the time of the accident.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Air Accident Investigation & Prevention Unit
Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation 
P.O. Box AP-59244 
Nassau, N.P., The Bahamas 
1 (242) 376-1617 
1 (242) 377-6060 FAX 

This report is for informational purposes, and only contains information released by the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

First Officer Frahkan Cooper

Captain Stanley Thurston 

The passengers and pilots preparing to board the ill-fated flight.

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