Skydiving Plane Crash Lawsuit Results in $48M Verdict

A Missouri jury has awarded $48 million to the families of five people who died in a 2006 skydiving plane crash that was blamed on defective engine parts. 

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by families of five of the six people who died in the crash of the DeHavilland Twin Otter plane near Sullivan Regional Airport on July 29, 2006.

The skydiving plane came down after an engine exploded, striking a utility pole, a tree, and killing all but two of the people onboard. The plane plummeted from the sky for 52 seconds between the time the engine failed and the time it hit the ground, according to testimony at the trial.

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Killed in the crash were Melissa Berridge, 38, Robert Cook, 22, Scott Cowan, 42, Victoria Delacroix, 22, Rob Walsh, 44 and David Pasternorster, 34. Pasternorster’s family was not party to the lawsuit. Cook allegedly sacrificed himself by positioning his body to cushion the impact for another passenger, a first-time skydiver who survived the crash and went on to get married and have a baby.

The Franklin County jury awarded the families $4 million each before also hitting Doncasters, Inc. with $28 million in punitive damages.

According to the complaint, Doncasters supplied Pratt and Whitney Canada, the engine’s manufacturer, with the compressor turbine blade that failed and destroyed the engine. The lawsuit alleged that the Connecticut-based company used a different alloy in constructing the blade than the one Pratt and Whitney actually requested.

Doncasters allegedly hid documents showing that the turbine blade failed performance tests, according to the testimony of an FAA investigator. The part was identified as having caused eight other engine failures in other vehicles. The blade broke in all eight other cases as well.


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