Pilot's widow denies fault in deadly plane crash

Thursday, December 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The crash of a twin-engine aircraft that killed 10 men affiliated with Oklahoma State University's basketball program was not the fault of the pilot, according to legal papers filed by the pilot's widow.

The families of Jared Weiberg, Bjorn Fahlstrom, Will Hancock, Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming filed wrongful death petitions last month in connection with the Jan. 27 crash in Colorado in which the men were killed along with Bill Teegins, Kendall Durfey, Pat Noyes, Brian Luinstra and pilot Denver Mills.

The lawsuits alleged negligence on the part of the plane's owner, North Bay Charter and Mills. But in her answer to the petition, Lindell Mills said the allegations of negligence against her late husband are too broad. She also said the lawsuits did not identify which acts were attributable to him.

The answer also denies the plaintiffs' allegation that victims of the crash suffered. The lawsuits claimed passengers suffered great pain of body and mind, resulting in death.

``We're claiming there was no injury before the crash,'' said Burton Johnson, the attorney representing the Mills estate.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

The aircraft, a Beechcraft Super King Air 200, carried members of the OSU basketball team and staff. The crash occurred outside Strasburg, Colo., after the OSU men's basketball team had played the University of Colorado.

It left the Jefferson County Airport, between Denver and Boulder, in light snow and crashed in a field about 35 minutes later.

The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to rule on what caused the crash. A preliminary report indicated the plane had an electrical failure but experts have said the plane would not have crashed solely because of an electrical failure.

Attorneys for the Fleming family have conducted their own investigation, including the inspection of the plane's wreckage, but have yet to release their findings. In a statement released when the lawsuits were filed, attorneys said their investigation concluded an electrical failure caused the crash because the owner and pilot did not properly maintain the plane.

Attorneys also said the suits were filed because the aircraft owner's insurance company refused to pay the families losses unless they gave up their right to continue to search for the crash's cause.

The company, United States Aviation Underwriters, wanted the families to sign a clause that released the company from potential lawsuits