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"Unlicensed Pilot Not Held Accountable for Fatal Plane Crash"

May 24, 2007

Three passengers were killed when a single-engine Viking airplane operated by a man with no pilot’s license crashed in Oklahoma in December 2006, but the first-degree manslaughter charges brought against the man were recently dropped by a state judge, who compared the plane accident to a car accident.

Three Deaths in a Small Aircraft Incident
Brent Caldwell took three friends, including a 15-year-old boy, on a self-described "joy ride" that day. Witnesses saw their plane flying low over Grand Lake, near Disney, and saw the plane crash into the lake. Caldwell swam to shore but the three male passengers didn’t survive. Oklahoma state troopers reported that Caldwell was under the influence of alcohol when they got to the scene.

Caldwell has said that the plane’s engine quit running at about 500–1,000 feet. His attorney contended that there would be nothing that a pilot could do in those circumstances, licensed or not, but the Delaware County District Attorney’s office brought charges against Caldwell in light of the three deaths. The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report states that when investigators inspected the plane's engine, it was operational, but that it was not operating at the time of the crash.

Judge Likens the Incident to a Car Crash
At a preliminary hearing, a judge found probably cause and ordered Caldwell to stand trial. At the most recent stage of the legal proceedings, the court dismissed the charges against Caldwell, likening the incident to a fatal car accident in which the driver was unlicensed and the deaths were caused through no fault of the driver. In such a case the driver would not be guilty of manslaughter, according to the judge.

There has been no prior case in the state of Oklahoma where an individual with no pilot’s license was at the controls of a plane that crashed and resulted in fatalities. The District Attorney plans to appeal the judge’s decision, although the victims' families did not want the original charges brought against Caldwell.

(Source: KOTV.com; http://www.kotv.com/news/local/story/?id=127486)

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in an aviation accident, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your losses. Please contact us today for a FREE consultation with an experienced aviation attorney who can examine your case thoroughly, and aggressively defend your best interests.

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