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Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Wife in Plane Crash
CASEY MOFFITT Staff writer
Algonquin Countryside
2/16/2006

Two widows of victims of the Wheeling airplane crash that killed four people are pursuing civil litigation independently.

Gary Robb, a Kansas City, Mo. attorney known for pursuing cases involving small aircraft, filed a lawsuit Feb. 8 on behalf of Lisa Waugh, widow of Michael Waugh, claiming failure of the left engine caused the fatal crash. Michael Waugh of Algonquin was a passenger on the Jan. 30 flight from Olathe, Kan., which crashed and burned at a construction company’s property on the 300 block of Alderman Court as it was coming in for a landing at Palwaukee Municipal Airport’s main runway.

Meanwhile, relatives of Mark Turek are also pursuing legal action. Turek’s family has hired Chicago attorney Mike Demetrio to file bills of discovery and secure subpoena power, Demetrio said Monday.

The Waugh lawsuit names Teledyne Continental Motors of Mobile, Ala. as the primary defendant. Teledyne manufactures the engines used on the Cessna 421B that crashed.

“This particular engine has a long history and it’s not a good one,” Robb said Friday. “When we take that, put it with the physical evidence and eyewitness accounts, before we even tear the engine down and see what happened exactly, all indications point to left engine failure.”

Two Estates Sued
Other defendants include the estates of Ken Knudson and Turek who were also aboard the flight and died. Although the airplane is registered to HK Golden Eagle Inc. of Delaware, the lawsuit states Knudson and Turek co-owned the plane. They were the only licensed pilots on the flight.

Demetrio, however, said Mark Turek had no financial stake in HK Golden Eagle and did not have any ownership interest in the plane.

The Waugh lawsuit also names the employers of the two men - - Arlington Heights-based Sybaris International Club, which was founded by Knudson, and Morgan Stanley, for which Turek worked as a senior vice president in the company’s Riverwoods office.

The lawsuit states the engine failure was due to the design and manufacture of the engine.

“I’ve seen many cases with this particular engine,” Robb said. “When you have a failure at low altitude and low air speed, the vast majority of times it’s going to be fatal.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash. John Brannen, a senior investigator with NTSB, said although there were no markings on the left propeller indicating it was turning at the time of the crash, that does not necessarily mean the engine failed.

Robb said Brannen was simply trying to ease speculation of the failure when he made those remarks.

“The lack of scratches on the left propeller is uncontroverted evidence that the left propeller was not rotating,” Robb said. “This is not a case where the plane hit in a soft surface. It hit concrete, and the propeller couldn’t have been embedded in a soft surface.”

The estates of Knudson, a Lake Zurich resident, and Turek, a Winnetka resident, are named in the lawsuit for failure to take control of the aircraft as it descended from the sky and negligence in maintaining the 1974 twin-engine Cessna. The lawsuit states the two were flying the plane at the time of the crash.

Demetrio, the Turek attorney, said Mark Turek had no responsibility for maintaining the aircraft since he did not own it and that there is a question as to who was flying the plane at the time of the crash.

Robb said it was a difficult decision to name the estates of two accident victims in the lawsuit, but it was necessary.

“This is not a case of pilot error,” he said. “But there are questions that need to be asked. It’s relevant to know what the pilots did.”

The lawsuit names the two men’s employers because the aircraft was being used for a business trip, and it claims the two companies failed to properly train the two as pilots.

Sybaris Responds
Rande Repke, Sybaris vice president, said Knudson was not on a business trip at the time of the crash, and he had not used the Cessna for business purposes. He also said he believed Knudson was not flying the plane when it crashed.

“I don’t quite understand why (Sybaris is) named in the lawsuit,” he said.

As for Knudson’s qualifications as a pilot, Repke said he had “all the confidence” in his ability to fly the Cessna, as Knudson had been a pilot for more than 40 years.

The lawsuit requests damages “in excess of” $550,000, plus legal fees and expenses.

Demetrio, the Turek family attorney, said he, too, believes left engine failure is the main culprit in the cause of the crash, and the Teledyne engine has a poor history. He said he is pursuing his own investigation before filing a lawsuit on behalf of the family.

“We’re going to conduct a thorough investigation to see what really happened,” he said. “We’re going to subpoena (Federal Aviation Administration) records, the owners of the plane and NTSB records,” he said. “We’ve retained experts to analyze those materials.”

Demetrio said he is not defending the family in the Waugh lawsuit, insurance companies that covered Mark Turek, the airplane and Morgan Stanley would be defending the estate’s interests.

The NTSB anticipates the crash investigation to last at least six months. The wreckage was moved Feb. 1 to the board’s facility in St. Louis, where investigators are laying out the pieces to examine various systems, wiring and the plane’s engines.

Michael Waugh, 37, was the general manager of Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant in downtown Chicago and a founder of the Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg. The lawsuit states he had flown to Olathe, Kan., to arrange a meeting between his father and two Morgan Stanley financial advisers - - Turek and the fourth crash victim, Scott Garland of Chicago.

Attorney’s Record
Robb negotiated a $20 million settlement with Teledyne in October in a lawsuit involving a 1999 Cessna 421 plane crash in North Carolina that also killed four people. The settlement is believed to be the largest in North Carolina history for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Calls to Morgan Stanley and Teledyne were not returned by press time.


 




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