Families of hangar collapse victims put city of Boise ‘on notice’ of possible lawsuit

The families of two victims of the collapse of the Jackson Jet Center Hangar at the Boise Airport have notified Boise that they may sue the city in the coming days.

The families of Mario Sontay and Mariano Coc, two workers who were killed in the building’s collapse in January, are seeking $30 million, though their lawyer told the Idaho Statesman he is not sure whether the city of Boise will be a defendant in the case.

Mario Sontay, 32, left, and Mariano Coc, 24, were two of the people killed in the collapse of a hangar at the Boise Airport. On May 10, their families filed a tort claim against the city of Boise.
Mario Sontay, 32, left, and Mariano Coc, 24, were two of the people killed in the collapse of a hangar at the Boise Airport. On May 10, their families filed a tort claim against the city of Boise.

In a tort claim filed May 10, obtained by the Statesman through a public records request, the families’ lawyer accused the city and its contracted engineering firm, AHJ Engineers, of approving building plans for the hangar that were “deficient.”

Jill Youmans, a spokesperson for the city of Boise, declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing litigation. David Haugland, president of AHJ Engineers, did not respond to a phone call or email requesting comment.

Craig Durrant, co-founder of Big D Builders, the project’s general contractor, was also killed in the collapse. All three men were pronounced dead at the scene, with traumatic blunt force injuries as the cause, the Statesman previously reported. Nine other people were injured.

The claim cites “flaws” in the structural design, including “inadequate bracing of the beams and columns and all connections” in the approved plans.

“This was no ordinary hangar,” the claim says. “The size, weight, shape, and uniqueness of the designed (sic) called for a responsible and in-depth review based on actual engineering probabilities. The aforesaid deficiencies were contributing causes to the structural instability that lead (sic) to the Hangar collapse.”

The families’ lawyer, Enrique Serna, said that there were nearly 20 parties — including Big D Builders, the Boise-based Inland Crane and other engineering firms — that could be included as defendants in the lawsuit, which he expects to file in about 10 days. In the meantime, he was required to “put the city on notice” within 180 days of the incident if there was a possibility it would be one of the defendants.

The claim was a “notice that if the evidence is there to support the fact that the city was also negligent in the granting of or (approval of) permits in the management of the site, etc., then they stand a shared responsibility in all this demand that we’re seeking,” he said. “That’s why I’m saying, who’s going to bear the brunt of it? Who’s going to be the most? I couldn’t tell you yet.”

The lawsuit will be based on the findings of his firm’s construction and engineering experts who have reviewed the case, Serna told the Statesman by phone. He declined to share those findings, saying they were still being finalized and would be publicized when the lawsuit is filed.

The suit may later incorporate or build on findings of a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration report due to be released in July, he said.

“The federal government and I may agree in a lot of those points,” he said. “They might go a little deeper. I might go a little deeper. We never know until my lawsuit is filed and until the OSHA report is written and issued.”

In a February press conference, Serna shared details about Sontay, 32, and Coc, 24, immigrants from Guatemala who came to Idaho to work in construction.

‘They were very happy in Idaho.’ Lawyer shares new details on hangar-collapse victims

“They were very good at their trade,” he said. “They were very happy in Idaho. They used to go to the Chevron station by the airport to get their morning coffee en route to building this hangar. They were proudly supporting their families in Guatemala, sending money back every week. They were taking care of their kids, their parents, their uncles. They were living the American Dream.”

Sontay’s family, including his parents, wife, and brother, dialed into the press conference from Guatemala and briefly introduced themselves. Throughout the event, they kept their camera trained on a small memorial to Sontay: a framed photo of him smiling, wearing a safety harness; a smaller family photo; and a votive candle burning in front of both.

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