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Fourth Lawsuit Filed After Skydiving Crash
Maggie Rotermund
St. Clair Missourian Editor

A fourth lawsuit was filed this week in relation to the fatal July skydiving plane crash in Sullivan. This is the first suit filed by one of the two survivors of the crash.

Steven J. Parrella, 46, of St. Louis, is still hospitalized and recovering from the July 29 crash that occurred shortly after takeoff.

The suit, filed in Franklin County Circuit Court, alleges wrongdoing by the maker of the plane’s engines. It names Quantum Leap Skydiving Inc. of Sullivan, as well as the engine’s manufacturer and those responsible for the plane’s maintenance and upkeep.

Six of the eight people aboard, including the pilot, died in the crash. Parrella suffered numerous injuries, including:

  • A T5 spinal burst fracture extending to the T5-6 disc space, which renders him a paraplegic;
  • A L1 burst fracture with multiple transverse lumbar spine process fractures;
  • Multiple spine, neck and rib fractures;
  • Hemorrhagic shock and anemia;
  • Respiratory failure, which required long-term ventilation and tracheotomy;
  • A cerebral concussion;
  • Oral and facial lacerations; and
  • Other various injuries.

Parrella has permanent disabilities, according to the lawsuit, and will require a lifetime of treatment, rehabilitation and care.

The suit seeks unspecified damages against United Technologies, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, which made the PT6A turboprop engines on the DeHavilland DHC-6 airplane operated by Quantum Leap Skydiving Center of Sullivan.

Parrella’s suit also claims negligence by Hartzell Propellor Inc. of Sidney, Ohio; Woodward Governor Co., of Rockford, Ill., Honeywell International Inc. of Morristown, J.J., Pro Turbine of Hot Springs, Ark., and Northstar Aerospace of Bedford Park, Ill.

The first suit was brought Aug. 2 by Vivian and Susan Delacroix of Kent, England, parents of Victoria Delacroix, 22. The second suit was filed Aug. 22 by Mark Cook and Annette Bachand, parents of Robert Cook, a 22-year-old University of Missouri-Rolla student.

The third suit was filed in September by Barbara Berridge, mother of Melissa Berridge, a 38-year-old compliance officer for Claire McCaskill’s Senate campaign.

Delacroix, Cook and Berridge died in the crash along with the pilot and two other passengers.

In a preliminary report released Aug. 7, the National Transportation Safety Board refused to speculate on the cause of the accident, but said inspectors have retained the engine and propellers for further examination.

A lawyer representing all four families in their lawsuits said the NTSB will examine the engine from the downed plane on Nov. 14. The investigation will take place at Pratt & Whitney headquarters in Ottawa, Canada, according to Gary Robb, of Robb and Robb LLC.

Robb said his team is poring over maintenance and damage reports, as well as NTSB reports for the past 22 years on the aircraft.

Robb’s investigation points to right engine failure just after takeoff. Part of the Nov. 14 inspection will involve taking apart that engine to learn more about its apparent failure.

“All indications to this point – the eyewitness testimony, the photo and the flight characteristics - - all of these point to a failure of the right engine at the worst possible time,” he told The Missourian.

He added that with an engine failure of this type, it would be difficult for even the most experienced pilot to effectively and safely control the flight path.

The plane, carrying seven skydivers and the pilot, took a nosedive and struck a utility pole and trees before hitting the ground, according to Robb.

Robb has said that his clients will continue to keep their lawsuits separate legal petitions, but most likely will request a consolidation in the future.

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Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

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