Blame Game Heats Up in Deadly Plane Crash

The owner and operator of a Learjet that crashed at Columbia Metropolitan Airport last year, killing four people, is suing the airport, the plane's manufacturer and a tire company.

The State newspaper reported Friday that the jet's owner, Inter Travel & Services Inc. of Irvine, Calif., and the operator, Global Exec Aviation Inc. of Long Beach, Calif., are seeking more than $12 million in damages. The two companies claim the design of the airport's runway and of the jet were defective.

Former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, were burned in the Sept. 19 crash that killed pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, co-pilot James Bland, 52, from Carlsbad, Chris Baker and Charles Still,

The lawsuit, originally filed in a South Carolina court, was transferred to U.S. District Court in Columbia on Tuesday.

The suit contends the runway overrun area was not long enough for the plane to stop, that the fencing and other airport equipment damaged the jet's fuel containers and that the lowered roadway around the airport caused the nose-first crash into a raised embankment.  The airport has denied the allegations in court papers.

The suit also names Learjet Inc., Bombardier Aerospace Corp. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. as defendants.

"It's pretty common to have lawsuits filed after an incident," said Leo Knaapen, spokesman for Learjet manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace. Knaapen would not comment specifically on the South Carolina case.

Goodyear spokesman Ed Markey said Friday the company is disappointed the suit was filed before the National Transportation Safety Board completed its investigation.

"While the tires may have been involved, it is still too early to speculate on a cause," Markey said. "The performance of a tire is dependent upon how the tire was used, if it was properly maintained and whether it was damaged before the accident."

At least four other lawsuits have been filed after the crash, including ones by Barker and Goldstein in Los Angeles.

Barker is recovering from severe burns. He claims the crash caused him pain and suffering, mental anguish, psychological and emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of earnings capacity and medical expenses.

Federal investigators have not yet determined the cause of the crash.

Aviation authorities have said cockpit recordings indicated the jet's crew thought a tire had blown during takeoff. NTSB officials have said pieces of tire were recovered about 2,800 feet from where the plane started its takeoff down the 8,600-foot runway.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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