GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) – The family of one of two Hope College students killed in a 2010 plane crash has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the federal government for $750,000.
The settlement with the family of 20-year-old passenger Emma Biagioni of St. Charles, Ill., is expected to be reviewed next month by a judge.
Biagioni died along with 23-year-old pilot David Otai of Nairobi, Kenya, when the rented Cessna crashed Jan. 17, 2010, in Allegan County’s Manlius Township. The crash site is near Tulip City Airport, which now is called West Michigan Regional Airport.
Biagioni’s family blamed air traffic controllers in Muskegon for failing to help Otai when he radioed he was having trouble in heavy fog.
The lawsuit said Otai called for assistance within 15 minutes of take-off and his first call went unanswered. When he finally got through to a radio controller, she couldn’t understand what Otai said, according to the lawsuit, and didn’t ask him to repeat his request for help.
The controller advised Otai to contact the flight service station on a certain frequency, but she relayed the wrong frequency, The Grand Rapids Press reported.
The lawsuit said Otai was forced to contact the air-traffic control tower once again after a second controller provided another wrong frequency. Soon after Otai requested assistance for the second time, the plane crashed.
The government says controllers acted with “due care” and didn’t cause the crash.
“Also, the United States contends that the pilot caused the accident by negligently discharging his duties as pilot-in-command by, inter alia, illegally taking off without an instrument flight plan in poor weather, known as instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and other violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations,” a report said.
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