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Charges Dismissed In Fatal Plane Crash

A judge dismisses charges against a man who had a plane crash, but no pilot's license. Three passengers died in that crash and prosecutors say Brent Caldwell should be held accountable. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports Caldwell's attorney says the judge simply followed the law.

One side says an engine problem caused the crash and the fact the pilot didn't have a license, made no difference. The other side says we don't know what caused the engine to shut off and being licensed very well could've made a difference.

Witnesses say they saw the plane flying fairly low above Grand Lake, but couldn't hear the engine running. When it crashed, the pilot, Caldwell, swam to shore. His three passengers, including a 15-year-old boy, didn't survive. Records show Caldwell didn't have a license and hadn't flown in five months. He says he was taking his workers on a joy ride, at their request. His attorney says Caldwell is devastated his friends died, but says Caldwell did not cause the deaths simply by not having a pilot's license.

He says the engine quit running and at an altitude of 500 to 1,000 feet. There was nothing Caldwell could do, license or not. However, the preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says when investigators inspected the engine, it was operational, it just wasn't operating at the time of the crash.

A pilot tells us many things could cause that, a plane runs out of gas, a pilot shuts off the engine and also, a mechanical problem. That leaves the door open for pilot error. Prosecutors argue a licensed pilot would've better been able to handle any of those issues, whether switching to another gas tank or controlling a plane with an engine problem. They say Caldwell was committing a crime, a misdemeanor of flying without a license, and during that crime, three people died so he should be held accountable.

Since there's never been a case like this in Oklahoma, the closest thing a judge could compare it to was a car wreck. He said just because someone is driving without a license and is unfortunate enough to kill someone, through no fault of his own, that driver wouldn't be guilty of manslaughter.

The judge said there's no evidence why the engine stalled and more importantly, no evidence Caldwell did something criminal to cause it, so all charges were dropped.

A previous judge found there was enough evidence for Caldwell to stand trial, but this judge disagreed. Prosecutors say they don't think this decision sets a good precedent, so they plan to appeal, even though the victims' families don't want it. The appeal could take a year or two.

Caldwell's attorney says Caldwell took pilot training. Adding, he just never got around to getting his license. The lawyer says Caldwell feels so badly about the crash, he'll probably never fly again.

Watch the video:

Pilot Involved In Deadly Plane Crash Gets Charges Dismissed

Related Stories:

12/17/2006 Plane Crashes In Grand Lake

12/18/2006 Pilot Of A Deadly Plane Crash Appears In Court

12/20/2006 Pilot Accused Of Manslaughter Bonds Out

12/22/2006 Report Says Pilot In Fatal Plane Crash Had No License

3/28/2007 Pilot In Deadly Plane Crash Goes To Court

4/30/2007 - Pilot Involved In Deadly Crash To Stand Trial
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