BY CASSANDRE COYER
Eight people died, including four teenagers, after a plane inexplicably crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast in February.
Now, families of four passengers are suing the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot.
On Tuesday, May 24, the families of four passengers killed in the plane crash filed a wrongful death lawsuit against EDP Management Group, Dillon’s Aviation and Green Assets, who employed the pilot, Ernest Durwood Rawls, who also died in the crash, according to a news release.
The complaint was filed by the families of Noah Lee Styron, 15; Michael Daily Shepherd, 15; Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16; and Stephanie Fulcher, 42, according to the lawsuit.
Dillon’s Aviation and Green Assets declined a request to comment from McClatchy News on May 25. EDP Management Group could not be reached for comment.
“Our clients have endured every family’s worst nightmare, and they want answers and accountability,” Andrew C. Robb, attorney for the families who also represented Vanessa Bryant in her wrongful death lawsuit after the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter, Gianna Bryant, said in the release.
The suit follows a plane crash that took place on Feb. 13, 2022, in Carteret County, on the North Carolina coast.
That day, the plane left Engelhard at about 1:35 p.m. and was headed to Beaufort, according to the complaint.
Moments after takeoff, the air traffic controller informed the pilot that he was flying near a restricted airspace, to which the pilot confirmed he would avoid, the lawsuit states.
The complaint states that minutes later, at about 1:41 p.m., the air controller warned the pilot again that he was about to enter the restricted area.
Multiple calls from the air controller ensued, which all went unanswered by the pilot, according to the lawsuit.
At about 2 p.m., as the plane’s altitude was climbing rapidly, the air traffic controller asked the pilot at what altitude he was flying, but again there was no response, the lawsuit said.
Moments later, the complaint states that radar contact with the plane was lost and the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about three miles from the North Carolina coast.
The commercial pilot, student pilot and six passengers died in the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
In a preliminary report shared with McClatchy News on May 25, the agency states that throughout the communication with air traffic controllers, “There were no distress calls or a declaration of emergency from the airplane.”
The lawsuit states that the pilot failed to maintain control of the plane and failed to avoid a restricted airspace, which led to “an erratic and irregular flight path.”
In the suit, families of the passengers stated that the pilot “improperly relied” on his son, the co-pilot, who had “inadequate training and experience.”
As of 2021, the pilot had about 3,000 hours of flight experience, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That year, his son, a student pilot, had reported about 20 hours of flight experience.
The lawsuit further stated that the pilot’s “negligent piloting led to his subsequent spatial disorientation.”
The families behind the lawsuit seek to recover damages including compensation for their pain and suffering, and medical and funeral expenses.
“This crash was entirely preventable. It is these families’ utmost desire to find out precisely how this tragedy occurred so that they can prevent others from having to endure what they are suffering,” the families’ attorney said in the release.