Thursday, April 28, 2016

Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage, N228LL: Fatal accident occurred August 31, 2014 in Erie, Colorado

Jury: Pilot in Erie plane crash that killed 5 not negligent

Family of Tori Rains-Wedan had sued Oliver Frascona over 2014 crash

A Weld County jury this week found that the pilot of a plane that crashed in Erie in 2014, killing all five people on board, was not negligent.

Tori Rains-Wedan, 41, and her three sons — Mason, 15, and twin brothers Austin and Hunter, 11 — and pilot Oliver Frascona, 67, were killed when their plane crashed Aug. 31, 2014, at Erie Municipal Airport.

Frascona, a prominent Erie real estate lawyer, and Rains-Wedan, the owner of Educated Minds, which provides continuing education classes for real estate brokers, were dating.

The Wedans family filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of Rains-Wedan and each of her sons against Frascona's estate and Joe Lechtanski — who was piloting another plane on the runway — claiming that "very bad piloting" led to the crash.

But following a week-long, the six-person jury that heard the case in Weld County District Court found that neither of the pilots was negligent, according to court officials.

"Three families suffered a tragic loss, and our hearts go out to them all," said Doug Barber, an attorney for Frascona's estate. "We are grateful to the jury for their time and attention, and we agree with their determination that sometimes bad things happen and there is nobody to blame.

"Some things just are accidents."

Bruce Lampert, the attorney for the Wedans, did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit also had named Frascona's company, The Real Estate School, claiming the business was negligent in allowing Frascona to fly the plane, a Piper PA 46 Malibu, without proper training. The company closed after Frascona's death.

At the time of the crash, Lechtanski was taking off from the Erie airport for Centennial, heading southeast on the runway, according to witness reports. At the same time, Frascona's plane was coming in for a landing, heading northwest.

The Erie airport — which does not have a control tower — has one runway. Witnesses said pilots typically take off and land heading into the wind, but that Frascona instead was landing from the opposite direction, with his plane pushed by a tailwind.

Witnesses said the two planes, heading toward each other, appeared to come within 300 yards of each other, though Lechtanski told the Daily Camera in 2014 that he never saw Frascona's plane with his own eyes.

According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Frascona's plane crashed shortly after it came in "close proximity" to Lechtanski's.

"A witness in the fixed-base operator's building described the airplane at low altitude with full power, in a left bank with a nose-high attitude," NTSB investigators wrote. "Witnesses said it appeared the 'airplane did not want to fly, it appeared to be in a stall,' and 'it did not accelerate or climb.'

"The airplane continued in a 'rapid descent' until impacting terrain northwest of the airport."

Original article can be found here:

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA467
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 2014 in Erie, CO
Aircraft: PIPER PA 46 350P, registration: N228LL
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 31, 2014 about 1150 mountain daylight time, a Piper Malibu PA-46, N228LL, was substantially damaged when the airplane impacted terrain near Erie Municipal Airport (EIK), Erie. The airplane was owned and operated by The Real Estate School, LLC, Erie, Colorado. The private pilot and four passengers on board were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

In statements provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Investigator-In-Charge (IIC), witnesses saw the accident airplane on final approach to runway 33 while another airplane was departing runway 15. Witnesses stated the two airplanes crossed in "close proximity." The airplane continued down runway 33 and power was applied "as if to go-around." A witness in the fixed-base operator's building described the airplane at low altitude with full power, in a left bank with a nose-high attitude. Witnesses said it appeared the "airplane did not want to fly, it appeared to be in a stall," and "it did not accelerate or climb." The airplane continued in a "rapid descent" until impacting terrain.

At 1135, the EIK automated weather reporting facility reported wind from 160 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, temperature 21 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 10 degrees C, and an altimeter reading of 29.95 inches of mercury.

The main wreckage contained all primary structural components and flight control surfaces. The wreckage was retained by the NTSB for further examination.

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