Palo Alto Calif. Aviation Accident: Pilot’s Estate Sued Over Passenger Death

08/18/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Palo Alto, CA—The parents of a man killed in a tragic East Palo Alto aviation accident six months ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the dead pilot’s estate Tuesday, August 17, 2010. The wrongful death lawsuit claims the pilot who operated the aircraft on that fateful day was negligent in taking off during adverse weather conditions, according to information provided by the Mercury News.

Reports indicated three Tesla Motors employees were occupying a Cessna 310 when it crashed shortly after departing from the Palo Alto Airport. Douglas Bourne, 56, was at the controls of the twin-engine plane when it reportedly stuck an electrical tower and power line. The plane went down on Beach Street in East Palo Alton, killing all three workers on board.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a discussion between Bourne and air traffic controllers prior to his departure. An air traffic controller radioed Bourne, stating, “The runway is not visible so it’s at your own risk.”

Thirty seconds after being radioed for the first time, the air traffic controller went on to say, “I cannot clear you for takeoff because I don’t have visibility on the runway, so the release is all yours and it’s at your own risk, sir.”

Given that pilots flying personal planes are not restricted from taking off during unfavorable weather, Bourne subsequently radioed, “OK, 25 Juliet, rolling,” and took to the air. Sadly, the plane did not make it far before crashing down in an East Palo Alto neighborhood.

Bourne, along with 31-year-old Andrew Ingram and 42-year-old Brian Finn, suffered fatal injuries in the plane wreck. According to an attorney representing Ingram’s parents, Paul and Barbara Ingram, Bourne had not flown his plane for 18 months prior to the deadly accident.

“People who fly aircrafts need to fly frequently… They get information about how their plane is performing and they’re attuned to the nuances of flight. You can ask any pilot, pilots who haven’t flown in a while are vulnerable to a lot of issues, particularly horrible weather conditions,” the attorney said.

The aviation accident lawyer also alleged, “This plane crash could have been avoided if the owner and operator of the aircraft, Douglas Bourne, demonstrated concern for the safety of his passengers—instead of blatant disregard for his lack of recent flying experience, poor weather and the condition of his aircraft.”

The wrongful death lawsuit, which names Douglas Bourne and Air Unique Inc. (the company under which he owned the aircraft) as defendants, seeks unspecified damages. The case continues.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan– Legal News for California Aviation Accident Lawyers.

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