Articles Posted in Aviation Accident

plane-silhouette-1414861-m.jpg

Whenever airline accidents occur, there are usually a cargo load of questions to be answered regarding likely causes, avoidable circumstances and other issues. But few ill-fated flights have generated as many questions left outstanding and mystery as Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which vanished during the early morning hours of last Saturday. And San Francisco airplane accident attorney Gregory J. Brod would remind us that while airline and government officials may take weeks, months or even years before answering some of the key questions at stake here, the families of the 239 people who were on board have every right to ask why they had to lose their loved ones.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur and was bound for Beijing when, at approximately 1:30 a.m. local time, the top-of-the-line Boeing 777-200 jet stopped communicating with air traffic controllers while traveling at 35,000 feet. The jet’s course was set for a northeasterly path over the Gulf of Thailand on the way to the Chinese capital. However, military radar detected blips from what may have been the Malaysian aircraft some 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia, putting the plane well off course to the west of the Malay Peninsula and over the Andaman Sea. The last signal recorded by military sources registered at 2:15 a.m., Saturday, at 29,500 feet.

According to CNN, new information suggests that Flight 370 may have flown for several hours beyond the last transponder reading. Indeed, Malaysian authorities say that they have several “pings” from the plane’s service data system that were transmitted to satellites four to five hours after the last transponder reading. If that is so, at least one U.S. official believes that it would mean the jet flew as far as the Indian Ocean, a staggering off-course path.

“There is a probably a significant likelihood” that the aircraft is now on the bottom of the Indian Ocean,” said the U.S. official, who cited information the Malaysian government shared with Washington.

aircraft-interior-1438460-m.jpg

While early reports of the pings west of the Malay Peninsula sent to a satellite well after Flight 370’s last transponder signal were disputed by Kuala Lumpur, analysts from U.S. intelligence, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have all agreed that they were likely emanating from the missing aircraft.
But the mystery surrounding Flight 370 – as of the writing of this blog, no tangible evidence has been found regarding its fate – has become even more bizarre. It seems that an emergency beacon designed to transmit data if the plane were about to crash into the ocean failed to go off. The beacon’s distress signal would have been triggered by an interaction with water while the aircraft was on the surface of the sea.

The fact that the beacon failed to activate suggests that the airplane may not have crashed, that the transmitter malfunctioned, or that it’s underwater.

An even more strange twist concerning Flight 370 came to light Thursday evening, when two U.S. officials told ABC News that two communications systems on the aircraft were shut down. Reportedly, the plane’s data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m. Saturday and its transponder that transmitted location and altitude was shut down 14 minutes later. Both circumstances beg the question of why the systems were shut down and whether it was a deliberate act.
Continue Reading

plane-overhead-357020-m.jpg

When one surviving passenger from an ill-fated Asiana Airlines jumbo jet attempting a landing at San Francisco International Airport ended up on the tarmac and then was struck and killed by a San Francisco Fire Department fire truck on July 6, the tragedy ranked as one of the more bizarre developments of the crash landing that claimed three lives. And now San Mateo County’s district attorney has announced that the firefighters involved in the response to the airplane crash will not be criminally charged in connection with the death of the person who was run over and killed, but San Francisco airplane accident attorney Gregory J. Brod would caution that the decision does not address the question of any potential civil litigation.

Factors Included First Responder Reports, Videos and Autopsy
As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe on Friday declared that his office would not file criminal charges against the SFFD firefighters whose fire truck hit and killed Chinese student Ye Meng Yuan, 16. Ye somehow ended up on the tarmac after the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 and was still alive but under a foot-deep layer of fire-retardant foam when she was struck by the fire truck. Wagstaffe said that his office had opted not to file charges against the firefighters after considering reports from police, firefighters and other first responders, footage from numerous video recordings, as well as the findings of San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault. The coroner’s autopsy found that Ye died of multiple blunt-force injuries that were consistent with being struck by at least one motor vehicle.

Wagstaffe’s office had jurisdiction concerning the accident because of SFO’s location in San Mateo County, and Wagstaffe said that Ye’s death “was a tragic accident that did not involve any violation of our criminal laws.”

Civil Litigation Still Being Considered
While the SFFD firefighters are now out of jeopardy when it comes to criminal charges, the Ye family attorney is considering filing a civil lawsuit under the claim that the girl’s death was “completely avoidable,” and that the firefighters allegedly knew that she was outside the airplane and in the midst of the firefighters before they sprayed the foam on the ground and basically neglected her.

Any defense of the firefighters involved in the first-response mission surrounding the Asiana Airlines crash against a civil lawsuit will largely rest on California’s version of what are known as Good Samaritan laws. And that relevant code, California Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102, will offer solid immunity grounds for the firefighters:

No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.

However, while the firefighters may be in the clear legally, the doctrine of sovereign immunity would have to apply to remove their employer – in this case, the SFFD – from legal crosshairs. A key authority on the matter of sovereign immunity – whether private parties can sue the government for torts committed by its officers or agents – is California Government Code Sec. 815.2:

(a) A public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by an act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment if the act or omission would, apart from this section, have given rise to a cause of action against that employee or his personal representative.
(b) Except as otherwise provided by statute, a public entity is not liable for an injury resulting from an act or omission of an employee of the public entity where the employee is immune from liability.

Continue Reading

As the investigation into July’s crash of Asiana Flight 214 continues, the pilots and airline are laying blame on the plane’s auto-throttle, suggesting a malfunction in the device caused the Boeing 777 to crash. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an anonymous aviation expert revealed that the carrier and pilots are focusing on the possibility that the device disengaged on its own. In contrast, Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”), said investigators are looking at whether the automated throttle was engaged at all and whether the pilots used it correctly. It is a debate that our San Francisco plane crash team continues to monitor and will follow as we approach a planned November date for an NTSB hearing. Attorney Brod continues to be available to talk to those injured in this or other aviation accidents.

Despite Asiana Crash, Trend Shows Greater Risk Tied to Small Planes

cessna.png July’s crash at San Francisco International Airport is notable because it involved a large, commercial airliner. Approximately thirteen months prior, Bloomberg published and distributed an article examining the realities of fatal crashes. At that juncture, there had not been a fatal crash involving a major commercial airplane since the February 2009 when 50 people died after a Colgan Air flight crashed near Buffalo, New York. In contrast, between the Colgan Air disaster and the Bloomberg inquiry, 30 times as many people. Looking at this issue another way, while the number of commercial jetliner accidents fell by 85% since 2000, the private plane/general aviation rose 20% in the same time frame.

firemen-at-work-416232-m.jpg

The old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is no more relevant than in the course of a legal investigation and potential litigation. By extension, if a picture’s worth can be measured in the thousands, a video’s value can be exponentially greater in terms of what it might say about facts or issues in legal proceedings. We are reminded of the power of images in the wake of news that footage from a San Francisco Fire Department firefighter’s helmet camera may land him a departmental reprimand. And San Francisco personal injury attorney Greg Brod reminds us of the critical importance of preserving and recording evidence that could prove pivotal to supporting a legal claim one may decide to pursue.

Disciplinary Action Against Firefighter Being Considered
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, SFFD Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White is considering disciplinary action against Battalion Chief Mark Johnson, whose helmet camera filmed the precise moment when a 16-year-old survivor of the July 6, 2013, crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport was struck and killed by an airport fire rig. The young woman, who was prostrate on the airport tarmac and covered by fire-retardant foam, died as a result of being run over by the water-carrying fire rig, according to a forensic investigation conducted by the San Mateo County coroner’s office.

According to Chief Hayes-White, the film from Johnson’s camera was not permitted under a 2009 departmental order that disallowed unauthorized video recordings “in the workplace” and at fire stations. The fire chief, whose disciplinary action comes two weeks after the helmet camera footage became public, stated that the privacy rights of victims and firefighters outweighed the value of videos from helmet cameras.

Evidence Falls into Different Categories
The ill-fated Asiana Airlines flight that crashed while attempting to land at SFO this summer will have provided a plethora of evidence that could prove or disprove facts in the airplane accident, not least of which is the abundant debris from the crash. The remains of the Boeing 777 would be considered physical evidence, or that evidence that can be touched. Such tangible evidence would stand in contrast with evidence that is provided orally – testimony from the survivors of the crash, for example. In addition to the matter of whether evidence is physical or oral, an additional question is raised as to whether it is direct, i.e., without need of an inference, or circumstantial, which requires an inference to establish a fact. Pictures or film are considered to be a form of direct evidence, and they can be either direct or circumstantial. And in the case of a video that shows an alleged act being carried out, a judge and jury could be staring down the barrel of a proverbial smoking gun.

In addition to the important questions of defining and classifying evidence, sometimes a legal proceeding involves the serious matter of whether there was spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence is defined as the withholding, hiding or destruction of evidence to a legal proceeding, which is a criminal act. Spoliation is also considered a separate tort in many states.
Continue Reading

The Asiana airplane accident that occurred in early July of this year has been the subject of much press this week as more claims are filed against defendants allegedly responsible for the tragic crash. The crash occurred on a San Francisco landing strip on July 6, a clear day by all accounts. When the plane crashed into the tarmac on that day, it left 181 people injured and two teenagers dead. Complaints against the airline, airplane and airplane parts manufacturers, and other parties are now mounting as victims heal from the wreck.

According to a news report by Claimsjournal.com this week, victims have filed suit against several defendants. The laws governing suits against airline carriers may guide plaintiffs and their attorneys how they select which party to sue. Under the Montreal Convention of 1999, an international convention regarding compensation for airline accident victims, victims cannot file a lawsuit in the United States if their final destination was not, in fact, the United States. In sum, the convention gives jurisdiction to the country in which the airplane ticket was purchased. At least one legal expert notes that this may not be advantageous for people traveling to destinations outside the United States, because the United States tort system, which governs personal injury and product liability cases, may be more generous to plaintiffs.

Some plaintiffs have filed product liability suits against Boeing, the manufacturer of the airplane involved in the Asiana crash. It is important to note that the Montreal Convention does not protect such defendants, and therefore passengers on the Asiana flight who were traveling outside the United States may bring such suits. Some of the facts upon which the suits are premised include that oxygen masks allegedly did not deploy as they should have, the sliding ramps did not deploy properly, and the seatbelts in the airplane had to be cut with a knife to release passengers.

It was a harrowing scene on one of the runways at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) early Saturday morning as a Boeing 777, part of airline company Asiana Airlines, skipped across the tarmac upon landing. First responders rushed to the scene, hoping to assist those who were still on the plane. Several emergency slides were deployed from the plane as passengers rushed to exit as the plane began to fill with smoke.

asiana.jpg Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Through data collected from the jet’s black boxes, we are beginning to have a clearer picture of what may have gone wrong. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has revealed brief timeline of the final seconds before the crash.

It is a fast developing story and one that is being followed here in San Francisco and around the globe. We recognize that emotions surrounding it are fresh and that many people are still looking for answers. We also know that we’ll hit “publish” on this blog entry and that the story will continue to unfold. Still, it is an important story and one that involves our work helping accident victims in Northern California as well as one that impacts our team as members of our local communities. Airplane accidents involving larger commercial planes are relatively rare, but they are particularly frightening. Our San Francisco plane crash law firm is available to help victims make sense of and move forward from the terrifying tragedy.

Flight 214 Crashes on San Francisco International Airport Runway, 2 Dead and Dozens Seriously Injured

plane.jpg Asiana Flight 214 crashed onto a runway at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, a tragedy covered by the San Francisco Chronicle and other news agencies from around the globe. The flight originated in Shanghai and made a stop in Seoul, South Korea before journeying across the Pacific to San Francisco. Witnesses report the Boeing 777 hit just short of the runway, possibly tail-first, and careened across the ground. The tail and landing gear were destroyed as the plane came to a rest on its belly and fire destroyed parts of the fuselage. Two 16 year-old girls from China died in the accident that also left 49 people seriously injured. In all, 182 of the 307 passengers and crew aboard the plane were seen at area hospitals.

Our Oakland wrongful death law firm knows that no lawsuit can ever bring back a loved one. However, we also know that a civil claim can help mitigate the economic losses that follow a death, allowing the survivors to focus more on their emotional healing than on how to pay regular bills and the costs directly stemming from the death (i.e. medical bills, burial costs). In some cases, a family’s fight can also inspire changes in behavior and new laws aimed at saving lives in the future.

cropduster.jpgExperienced Agricultural Pilot Dies After Colliding withTower

The Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times are following recent developments stemming from a 2011 plane crash. On January 10, 2011, agricultural pilot Stephen Allen’s plane struck a 198-foot tower on Webb Tract in Contra Costa County. Allen perished in the Delta Island accident and the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation suggests he did not see the tower. The pilot had been flying for more than twenty-five years and ran a local agricultural business.

Serving as a law firm for Oakland auto accident victims, the Brod Law Firmour team is keenly aware of the dangers of drunk driving in Oakland and throughout Northern California. We have seen too many innocent residents injured by a driver who chose to ignore the law and show disregard for safety by getting behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol. While we are proud to serve victims, we are saddened by every needless accident. Despite police crackdowns and education campaigns, drunk driving remains all too common.

wing.pngGiven their frequency, DUI incidents don’t always make the news but The Oakland Tribune reported this week on an unusual twist on the mix of alcohol and vehicle operation – drunk flying. The air operations division of the California Highway Patrol noticed a small plane flying erratically during the afternoon hours of Tuesday January 2, 2012. In violation of federal aviation regulations, the plane flew as low as 50 feet from the ground and a mere 100 feet from highway traffic. The CHP used the plane’s tail numbers to identify the plane which was registered in Pennsgrove. When the pilot landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport, authorities approached and immediately noted the smell of alcohol on the sixty-two year old pilot’s breath. After administering field sobriety tests, the CHP arrested the pilot on suspicion of flying while intoxicated.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports a significant increase in serious pilot errors when the pilot’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is above 0.04% and a decline in flying skill with levels as low as 0.025%. This is significantly lower than the 0.08% BAC level that constitutes a DUI for a California driver. In recognition of the risks posed by an incapacitated pilot, federal regulations prohibit flying within eight hours of alcohol consumption or when the pilot has a BAC above 0.04%. The FAA recommends even greater caution, suggesting that pilots refrain from drinking alcohol for twenty-four hours prior to takeoff. FAA material also caution that hangover symptoms can significantly impair skills even if the pilot’s BAC has returned to a legal range.

Perhaps it is because air travel is generally among the safest modes of modern transportation that Northern California aviation accidents capture our attention. Plane accidents, such as one recently investigated in our region, are often tragic. The aftermath of an aviation accident requires intense investigation by both industry and legal experts. While some plane crashes go unexplained, often one or more causes can be identified. With the guidance of a skilled San Francisco plane accident attorney, victims in our region can pinpoint the parties and fault and recover compensation for their losses. cessna.png

Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle provided an update on the crash of a small plane in February 2010. Doug Born held both a commercial pilot’s license as well as a flight instructor license. He was piloting a Cesna 310, with his colleagues Brian Finn and Andrew Ingram onboard, when the plane collided with high-tension wires and a sixty-foot transmission tower. All three of the men were killed when the plane broke into pieces after impact. While these losses are tragic, it is fortunate that the disaster was not compounded by injuries on the ground when pieces of the plane fell in a residential area of East Palo Alto that included a home-based day care.

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) is the federal organization tasked with reviewing aviation accidents. Last week, the NTSB concluded their investigation into the crash and attributed the incident to the pilot’s actions. They found that the plane was in working order, citing recordings that showed the propellers were operational and other related evidence. The NTSB noted that the control tower had warned Born against taking off during heavy fog. The tower released the plane but cautioned Born that the controller could not see the runway and that the pilot was operating at his own risk. Additional comments in the report show the NTSB concluded that Born failed to follow proper and standard departure procedures and also did not maintain the altitude necessary to avoid the power lines. The Chronicle story further references recordings of witnesses watching the crash and notes that the incident was also captured by the Palo Alto’s gunfire detection system.