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Carteret County News-Times - January 27, 2023

$15 million settlement reached in Drum Inlet plane crash

BEAUFORT —The families of five passengers killed in a plane crash just off the Outer Banks have settled their wrongful death lawsuits for $15 million dollars.

The plane crashed on Feb. 13, 2022 near Drum Inlet on the way back from a hunting trip.  The settlement was reached on behalf of the families of deceased passengers Noah Lee Styron, 15; Michael Daily Shepherd, 15; Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16; Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15; and Stephanie Fulcher, 42, mother of McInnis.

“The families filed these lawsuits to get answers and hold accountable the companies and individuals whose negligence led to this tragedy,” said Andrew C. Robb of Robb & Robb LLC, aviation lawyer for the families.

Robb is an aviation attorney who also represented Vanessa Bryant in her wrongful death lawsuit for the helicopter crash that killed her husband and basketball star Kobe Bryant.

“The families are grateful that this phase of their lawsuits has come to a close, and they will now continue the difficult process of trying to rebuild their lives,” Robb said.

Attorneys for the families filed dismissals with the Court in Carteret County on Thursday, reflecting that the agreed settlement amount of $15 million had been paid by the companies that employed the pilot and owned the plane.  The settling defendants in the lawsuits are EDP Management Group LLC, Green Assets Inc., both of Wilmington, and the Estate of Ernest “Teen” Durwood Rawls, the pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary accident report revealed that the airplane had reached an altitude of 4,700 feet and was climbing quickly before radar contact was lost.  The lawsuit alleged that pilot Rawls disregarded the instructions of Air Traffic Control, flew into restricted airspace in bad weather conditions with no visibility and became spatially disoriented.

The Pilatus PC-12 plane took off on Feb. 13, 2022 from Hyde County Airport on the mainland near the Pamlico Sound.  The plane was headed across the sound to Beaufort, along the southern edge of the Outer Banks in Carteret County.  The four teenagers on board were all students at East Carteret High School.

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