Settlement reached in lawsuit over plane crash that killed LouCity founder and colleagues
The estates of three people who died in a 2018 plane crash in Southern Indiana have reached a settlement with the aviation company behind a winglet system scrutinized in the incident.
Family and representatives of the three victims — Louisville City FC founder Wayne Estopinal, his architecture firm’s vice president, Sandra Holland Johnson, and pilot Andrew Davis — had sued Tamarack Aerospace Group in connection with the Nov. 30, 2018, crash of the Cessna 525A in a field near Memphis, Indiana.
The wrongful death suit, filed in 2020 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, accused Idaho-based Tamarack of making a winglet system that “was not reasonably safe as designed” and claimed “adequate warnings or instructions were not provided.”
Winglets are the raised pieces at the edge of wings that reduce drag and help control the plane.
Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a 2021 report on the crash that six pins in the wingtip extensions of the Cessna were “curled” and two pins were not aligned, which could have disrupted power.
Without definitively blaming Tamarack, the NTSB described the official cause of the crash as “asymmetric deployment of the left wing load alleviation system for undetermined reasons.”
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Claims made in a lawsuit represent only one side of a case.
Tamarack Aerospace Group said in a statement Thursday it “has reached a confidential resolution of all claims evolving from the November 30, 2018 Cessna mishap near Memphis, Indiana.”
The company declined to provide further details in the statement to The Courier Journal.
Online records in the case before U.S. District Judge Mary K. Dimke also confirmed the “parties have informed the Court that this matter settled during mediation.” Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Each plaintiff sought to recover, at a minimum, $75,000 from Tamarack Aerospace Group and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Limited, along with prejudgment interest, attorney fees and costs.
The suit is separate from Tamarack’s pending petition to the NTSB that asks the federal board to reconsider its conclusion the 2018 crash was likely caused by the winglet system.
Tamarack defends its winglets
Tamarack previously argued its Active Winglets installed on the Cessna in the 2018 crash “were fully operational and did not cause or contribute to the accident.”
Roughly six months after the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was grounding Cessna planes equipped with Tamarack's ATLAS winglets, mentioning reports of incidents in which the winglets appeared to have malfunctioned.
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The FAA alluded to the Indiana plane crash without specifically naming it, and the agency also cited a similar emergency directive issued a month earlier by the European Aviation Safety Agency.
The European agency and FAA lifted the winglet directives in the summer of 2019 after Tamarack Aerospace Group announced it had found a fix to the system that improves reliability and safety. Since then, no accidents or crashes involving the Cessna fleet with the Tamarack winglet system have been reported.
Remembering the victims
Davis, 32, Estopinal, 63, and Johnson, 54, died when the Cessna 525A crashed a few minutes after its 10:25 a.m. takeoff from Clark Regional Airport on the way to Chicago's Midway International Airport.
Davis lived in Sellersburg and was an associate corporate pilot for TEG. He left behind a wife and two young children.
Johnson was vice president of TEG and based in the firm's Shreveport, Louisiana, office. A mother of two sons, she was remembered as a caring friend and an energetic person with a zest for life.
Estopinal was president of Jeffersonsville-based TEG Architects, where Davis and Johnson also worked, and Estopinal’s EstoAir LLC firm owned the plane.
Estopinal was also behind the effort to bring a United Soccer League franchise to Louisville in 2014, with LouCity since becoming one of the USL's most successful clubs, and he was the architectural leader behind several local projects, including the University of Louisville’s Lynn Stadium and Jeffersonville’s Big Four Station Park.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Lawsuit settled in Indiana plane crash that killed LouCity founder