Deadly Plane Crash Was Preventable Says Widow
The widow of a passenger on a private plane that crashed in December 2011 near Teterboro Airport in New York filed suit against the estate of the pilot, claiming that the crash was preventable. The pilot, his wife, and two children were also killed in the crash. Crash Details On December 20, 2011, Jeffrey Buckalew, an investment banker and pilot, took off from Teterboro Airport, heading to Georgia for a Christmas week trip. Passengers included Buckalew’s wife, Corrine, their two school-age children, the family dog and a colleague, Rakesh Chawla. Just after take-off, Buckalew reported icing and requested a higher altitude. The plane climbed to approximately 17,800 feet before it suddenly turned and made a rapid descent. The final radio call from Buckalew appeared to be an attempt to declare an emergency, but it was cut off. The plane broke apart in mid-air before crashing onto Route 287, creating a debris field of more than a half-mile. There were no survivors. Icing Conditions Court documents show that Buckalew failed to obtain weather information before the plane took off, despite the fact that a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report noted that icing was being reported throughout the area the morning of December 20. Cathleen Chawla, the widow of Rakesh Chawla, also claims that Buckalew failed to avoid icing conditions and failed to declare an emergency once he realized that icing conditions existed. The suit also claims that Buckalew did not have the experience necessary to operate aircraft in the hazardous conditions that existed on the day of the crash. Buckalew’s Experience The NTSB reports that Buckalew had more than 1,400 hours of flight time and recently completed an NTSB refresher course on the plane. The NTSB investigation found that the plane had no pre-existing ruptures of the de-ice boots, and that the switches located in the cockpit for the de-icing system were in the “ON” position. However, the pilot’s handbook for the Socata, which was the plane Buckalew was flying, notes that flying in freezing rain, freezing drizzle or mixed ice conditions could lead to a degradation of the performance or controllability of the aircraft, and that the ice protection system may not be adequate to shed the ice properly. In addition to the Buckalew estate, Mrs. Chawla’s suit also names Cool Stream, a company owned by Buckalew that held title to the plane, as a defendant. The suit claims that Cool Stream should have required a more experienced pilot fly the aircraft that day due to the hazardous weather conditions. When pilot error is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that causes injury or death, a wrongful death claim may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding a plane crash where injuries may have been caused or worsened by pilot error.