Godfrey Wins Air Crash Case
A Weld County jury this week found that the pilot of a plane that crashed in 2014, killing all five people on board, was not negligent. The Pilot’s estate was represented by Brett Godfrey.
Tori Rains-Wedan, 41, and her three sons — Mason, 15, and twin brothers Austin and Hunter, 11 — and pilot Oliver Frascona, 67, were killed when their plane crashed Aug. 31, 2014, at Erie Municipal Airport. The Wedan family filed a wrongful death action on behalf of Rains-Wedan and each of her sons against Frascona’s estate and Joe Lechtanski — who was piloting another plane on the runway — claiming that “very bad piloting” led to the crash. But following a week-long trial, the six-person jury that heard the case in Weld County District Court found that neither of the pilots was negligent, according to court officials.
“Three families suffered a tragic loss, and our hearts go out to them all,” said Doug Barber, the personal representative for Frascona’s estate. “We are grateful to the jury for their time and attention, and we agree with their determination that sometimes bad things happen and there is nobody to blame. “Some things just are accidents.”
Bruce Lampert, the attorney for the Wedans, did not respond to requests for comment.
Brett Godfrey, who represented the estate of the pilot Oliver Frascona, said, “We were grateful for a jury that could sort out the facts from the horrible emotional response that a tragic accident of this kind can stimulate in an ordinary person. Our jury was exceptional. But our hearts go out to those who suffered from this tragic accident, including the Rains family, the Wedan family and the Frascona family.”
At the time of the crash, Lechtanski was taking off from the Erie airport for Centennial, heading southeast on the runway, according to witness reports. At the same time, Frascona’s plane was coming in for a landing, heading northwest. The Erie airport — which does not have a control tower — has one runway. Witnesses said pilots typically take off and land heading into the wind, but that Frascona instead was landing from the opposite direction, with his plane pushed by a tailwind.
Witnesses said the two planes, heading toward each other, appeared to come within 300 yards of each other, though Lechtanski told the Boulder Camera in 2014 that he never saw Frascona’s plane with his own eyes. According to a a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Frascona’s plane crashed shortly after it came in “close proximity” to Lechtanski’s. “A witness in the fixed-base operator’s building described the airplane at low altitude with full power, in a left bank with a nose-high attitude,” NTSB investigators wrote. “Witnesses said it appeared the ‘airplane did not want to fly, it appeared to be in a stall,’ and ‘it did not accelerate or climb.’
The airplane continued in a ‘rapid descent’ until impacting terrain northwest of the airport. All aboard were killed instantly.