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Federal Agency Finds Corporate and Pilot Error Caused Fatal Plane Crash

A federal agency regulating aircraft found that a central Florida plane accident was caused by pilot error and mistakes by corporate management. An article from Aero-News Network said National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded in late January that the July 2007 accident “could have been… easily avoided” if personnel at NASCAR’s corporate flight division had made better decisions about an electrical problem with the plane. The NASCAR flight, headed from Daytona to Lakeland, crashed into three residential homes in Sanford while attempting to make an emergency landing at Orlando-Sanford International Airport to deal with an in-flight fire. Two people aboard and three on the ground were killed, including a small child.

According to the article, a different pilot had reported an electrical problem with the plane the day before the crash. That pilot pulled a circuit breaker associated with the malfunctioning equipment and reported the problem to staff at NASCAR’s aviation department. However, the department authorized the plane for flight the next day without fixing the problem, which the NTSB said was one of two major mistakes leading to the crash. Not only did this violate federal regulations, but NASCAR told investigators that it had no record of the first pilot’s report. The other mistake cited was the NASCAR pilot’s choice to fly the plane knowing that there was an unresolved maintenance problem. At some point, the report said, someone reset the circuit breaker, which led to the fire.

The article didn’t say whether any of the victims or their families have filed a Florida airplane accident lawsuit over the incident. But as an aviation accident lawyer in South Florida, I can see that this report would be bad news for NASCAR in any such legal claim. In order to collect damages for the accident — including the costs of medical care, funeral expenses and repairs for the people whose homes were destroyed — victims must show that the accident was caused by someone else’s carelessness. This report does exactly that, showing that federal authorities believe both the corporate decision-makers and the pilot made serious mistakes. In fact, acting NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker said NASCAR’s lack of any record of the first pilot’s maintenance report was “frankly, alarming.”

Thanks to my own practice as a Fort Lauderdale airplane accident lawyer, I happen to know that human error is the most frequently cited cause of plane crashes — far more often than weather or maintenance problems alone. Aircraft are generally still much safer than cars and trucks, but when they do crash, they’re more likely to leave their victims dead or very seriously injured. My firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, helps victims of serious airplane crashes hold careless people and organizations responsible for those injuries with Broward County plane crash lawsuits. If you or someone you love is a victim and you’d like to learn more about your options, please contact us online as soon as possible for a free consultation or call us at (954) 431-8100.

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