A Franklin Lakes woman filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday against the Cessna Aircraft Co. and the state Department of Transportation alleging their negligence caused the fatal crash of a plane her husband was flying out of West Milford in 2005.
Janet Fletcher, widow of Lynn T. Fletcher, filed suit in state Superior Court in Paterson, claiming manufacturer Cessna created a defect in the plane and that the company did not adequately warn her husband "of the dangers that could occur if certain pre-flight procedures were not followed." The suit also alleges that the state Department of Transportation – which operated Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford – maintained the airstrip in an "unsafe and dangerous condition" that also contributed to the plane crash.
Following the Feb. 27, 2005 crash, local officials and pilots questioned in media reports whether the airport's runway was too short. But the runway, measuring 3,740 feet long, was the same length as those at small-craft airports throughout the state, according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration. The state DOT, which purchased the airport in 1999, shortened the runway by 500 feet after a developer constructed an assisted-living center in a surrounding no-build area called the "airport hazard zone." Spokesmen for Cessna, headquartered in Kansas, and the state DOT declined to comment on the pending litigation Tuesday. Attorney James Fitzgerald, representing the plaintiff, could not be reached to elaborate on the alleged defects in the plane or alleged unsafe airport conditions.
Fletcher, 56, was getting his pilot's license recertified when the 1975 Cessna 182P in which he and another man were flying crashed during takeoff. Also killed was 79-year-old Harold E. Botsford Jr., of Ringwood, a longtime flight instructor. "At the time of the accident, the airplane operated by (Fletcher) had lifted off of the airstrip at Greenwood Lake Airport, rose to about 50 to 100 feet off the ground, stalled, plummeted to the ground, hitting overhead wires and burst into flames," the suit states. Also named in the suit are John Does and ABC Corporations charged with negligently servicing the airplane.
The suit seeks monetary damages from the defendants to cover Janet Fletcher's financial loss and emotional pain and suffering.
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