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Two Lawsuits Filed In Continental Takeoff Crash

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 11:45 AM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, Airlines, Plane Crashes, Airline Industry, Runway Excursions, FAA

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IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons/ Delta 757 taking off Reagan Washington Airport/ author: Carl Lindburg

Two Passengers on board the Continental Airlines flight that veered off the runway in December have become the first to sue the airline over the crash, reports the Houston Chronicle.

The civil suit, filed in state district court in Houston, alleges the pilot of Flight 1404 negligently aborted the flight shortly after takeoff, crashing into a nearby ravine, where it caught fire.

There were 110 passengers and five crew members on the plane to Houston at the time of the crash; 37 of which were injured.

The suit, filed by Emily Pellegrini, 21, and Melissa Craft, 25, does seek a specific dollar figure. But the passengers want more than what Continental has offered so far, which is $3,000 per person for lost luggage in the crash and fire, and 10 percent off their next Continental flight.

“The allegations are premature and hasty, since the accident is still being investigated by federal investigators,” said a spokeswoman for Continental.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating, but aviation experts say strong crosswind combined with over-steering the nose gear might have been to blame.

“Continental knows what caused the accident. They have access to the records. No other aircraft opted against taking off due to wind. Whether the crash was caused by mechanical issues, pilot error or both, the airline is responsible,” said Jason Gibson, an attorney representing both women.

According to Gibson, he has spoken to other passengers from the flight and more lawsuits related to the crash are planned.

On December 20, the 737 had just reached speed for takeoff when the cabin began to violently shake. The aircraft veered off the runway, crashed into a ravine, cracking open its left engine and ripping off the landing gear with a ripped fuselage bursting into flames.

All passengers made it out of the plane before fire consumed the cabin.

Craft and Pellegrini, whom do not know one another, are unsatisfied with Continental’s handling of the crash, Gibson said. The airline has not compensated Craft for the jewelry and expensive ski gear she lost in the crash. Pellegrini was given money to replace her lost belongings but a Continental representative insisted on going shopping with her to supervise her purchases and he actually made the purchases himself, Gibson said.

“We’re not seeking a windfall,” said Gibson. “We just want Continental to pay for their present and future medical and psychological care and any lost wages. The company is not doing what it should be doing,” he said.

This crash marked the second fiery accident off a runway in three years in which no one died. Air France Airbus A340 with 309 passengers skidded off the runway in Toronto in August, 2005.

The Flight Safety Foundation says runway accidents are the most common that account for nearly one third of all airline crashes over the last dozen years. They most likely are to occur when a plane lands rather than takeoff.

And accidents are less likely to be due to equipment, since there is so much automation, and more likely due to human error, the group believes. #

*Editors Note: Some people feel the passengers are lucky to be alive and that should be enough. While others feel they should be compensated. What is your opinion? Do they deserve compensation and how much? Should it be a lump sum to each passenger or more? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.


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