LaGrange, GA Three Die in Crash of a Beechcraft Baron at the Airport Trying to Avoid Civil Air Patrol Tow Plane and Glider, Feb 2014
Three Peachtree City men died when a small plane crashed Saturday afternoon at LaGrange Callaway Airport in LaGrange, GA.
The plane, a Beechcraft Baron twin-engine, went down about 14:07 pm, killing Vincent Michael Rossetti, 60, Willy Lutz, 69 and Jeffery Van Curtis, 53.
Two men died at the scene, Lt Chris Taylor with the LaGrange Fire Department officials said in an emailed statement. Another man was flown to Columbus Medical Center, where he died.
Bill Flynn, a friend of all three men, spoke with Channel 2 Action News on Sunday of behalf of the Rossetti and Curtis families. He said his friends were taking care of routine training requirements when the crash occurred.
“They just loved flying … and they were best of buddies,” Flynn said. Rossetti was the CEO of Ravin Homes, Curtis was a family physician, according to Channel 2. Lutz was a flight instructor and retired Delta flight instructor as well, according to a family member.
“These guys were well known by everybody, well respected … very involved,” Flynn said.
The plane, which took off from Panama City, FL, arrived at the LaGrange airport about 10:45 am Saturday and was refueled, Channel 2 reported.
According to witnesses, the plane was practicing some maneuvers when it suddenly had to avoid a [Civil Air Patrol] glider.
After that move, the plane went into a deadly nose-dive, according to the report.
The plane, which was manufactured in 1980, was registered to Executive Aircraft Storage LLC of Peachtree City, according to online Federal Aviation Administration records. The FAA was investigating the crash, agency spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.
The National Transportation Safety Board arrived Sunday to continue the investigation.
By Michael Kanell, Atlanta Journal- Constitution
23 July 2015 (Follow Up):
The National Transportation Safety Board determined probable cause(s) of this accident:
• The pilot’s overreaction to a perceived conflict with a [Civil Air Patrol] tow plane and [Civil Air Patrol] glider on an intersecting runway, which resulted in a loss of control during an attempted aborted landing.
•Contributing to the accident was the failure of the [Civil Air Patrol] glider tow operator to follow and the airport operator to ensure compliance with published airport rules and regulations for glider tow operations.
Curtis v United States court case - https://www.scribd.com/document/356369671/Curtis-v-United-States
Judge Awards $11,797,609:
On February 22, 2014, Jeffrey Van Curtis was killed in an airplane crash [N36638] at the LaGrange-Callaway Airport in LaGrange, Georgia. Curtis’s widow, Plaintiff Karen J. Curtis, and the administrator of his estate, Plaintiff Robert Rupenthal, brought this lawsuit against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). Plaintiffs allege that negligence by the Civil Air Patrol—a United States Air Force Auxiliary—caused the crash that killed Curtis and fellow passengers Michael Rossetti and Willy Lutz.
On August 3rd, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Newnan Division delivered a 41 page ruling on this accident. It found that CAP breached its duty in its glider operations at Lagrange-Callaway. It neglected a risk of collision by failing to use a spotter despite the obstructed views between the runways. Such a duty to make its flight operations safe existed irrespective of the applicability of the local airport rule requiring a spotter during glider operations. The CAP pilots failed to yield the right-of-way to the Baron, as required by 14 C.F.R. § 91.113(g). And as previously discussed, see supra Part I.H., the CAP pilots apparently did not announce their flight plans over the CTAF, and they either did not hear or failed to appreciate the Baron’s announcement over the CTAF that it was preparing to land. In these ways CAP breached the duty of all pilots to generally act with reasonable care, and specifically to cede the right-of-way to landing aircraft.
CAP Lt Col Joel Seidband, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and CAP pilot was pilot in command of the Cessna 172 tow plane. CAP Lt Col Pete Schulz, also a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and CAP pilot, was pilot-in-command of the glider. CAP Lt Col David Mitchell, a US Navy Captain and Lockheed P-3 Orion pilot with more than 3,000 hours, who is also a CAP pilot and CAP flight instructor, was seated in the rear seat of the glider “as a passenger”. The CAP 172 and the glider had just completed a successful flight practicing a simulated rope-break which would seem to indicate a CAP Glider Form 5 check-ride was taking place and that the “passenger” was making use of flight instructor qualifications as a CAP check pilot.
CAP’s breach of duty caused the Baron crash. Kenyon and Lott’s testimony establish that just before the Baron would have touched down, its engines suddenly increased to full power. At that time, the Baron was in a position from which Rossetti would have first been able to observe the CAP aircraft approaching from the left. The Court concludes from this evidence that Rossetti saw the CAP aircraft and made an attempt to avoid a collision. This maneuver by Rossetti, while the Baron was configured for landing, ultimately caused it to pitch up sharply, stall, roll over, and then crash. See supra Part I.H. Thus, the crash was a direct result of the CAP aircraft’s presence on runway 3/21, which itself was a result of a breach of duty by CAP.
Finally, it is uncontroverted that the injuries suffered by Plaintiffs’ decedent were caused by the crash of the Baron. While the extent of those damages will be discussed in further detail, the Court concludes that CAP was negligent under Georgia law and is thus liable under the FTCA claim.
For the foregoing reasons, the Clerk is directed to enter Judgment in favor of Plaintiff Robert Rupenthal and against the United States in the amount of $177,084.14. The Clerk is further directed to enter Judgment in favor of Plaintiff Karen J. Curtis and against the United States in the amount of $11,797,609. The Clerk shall then close this case.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 3d day of August, 2017.
Timothy C. Batten, Sr.
United States District Judge