The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

December 30, 2011

Winner Aviation appealing jury award

TRUMBULL COUNTY — Winner Aviation is appealing a recent Philadelphia jury verdict that it must pay two Ohio residents $11.358 million in damages after they were severely burned in a 2007 plane crash.

Rick Hale, president and chief executive officer of the fixed-base operator at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, said Thursday, “There’s a lot of room for us to do an appeal.”

Earlier this month the aviation maintenance company lost a case filed by Akron-area plaintiffs Robert E. Marsico Jr. and his fiancee Heather Moran. Marsico, a physician, and Ms. Moran, a pilot, sued and said Winner Aviation was negligent in its maintenance of Marsico’s Cessna 337 Skymaster twin-engine aircraft.

Ms. Moran was piloting the plane when it took off from an airport in Georgia, and she and Marsico maintained that the plane’s first engine failed shortly after takeoff and that the second engine also experienced problems and was unable to power the plane.

Ms. Moran tried to return to Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, but crash landed at a water treatment plant. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report, the plane hit a concrete structure, then the ground and erupted into flames. Ms. Moran and Marsico suffered third-degree burns to 40 percent of their bodies.

Hale, a Sharon resident, said Ms. Moran’s decision to return to the airport where the flight began is just one issue, and one reason he believes she is partly responsible for the crash.

The jury determined that her $6.458 million in damages should be reduced by 20 percent to coincide with her responsibility for the crash. Ms. Moran has been unable to return to work as a pilot since the crash due to her injuries.

Marsico has been able to return to work, and was awarded $4.9 million.

The NTSB said Ms. Moran’s failure to use “all of the power available following an engine failure,” contributed to the crash, as did the failure of the rear engine.

Once Ms. Moran detected problems in the air, she estimated the plane was about 1,000 or 1,500 feet above ground. She decided not to land at the closest airport, about 6 miles away, instead opting to try to return to the original airport 10 miles away, thinking it was better prepared for an emergency. The farther-away airport also had a control tower.

Marsico registered the plane in June 2005, and Hale said Winner Aviation had performed the maintenance work on the aircraft since that time.

“We did everything per the maintenance manuals for the aircraft and the engines,” Hale said. “We’re just keeping our plotted course in defending this. We’re not interested in settling. We’re taking it to the appeal court.”

Hale added, “We’re sorry for the injuries that the two plaintiffs went through, but we find ourselves to be no way negligible for what has happened.”

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