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Hudson Crash

Wrongful death lawsuits filed for Italian tourists killed in crash

KAREN ROUSE  Dec 10, 2009

Five wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the pilot of Piper fixed-wing aircraft that collided over the Hudson River with a helicopter carrying Italian tourists.

The lawsuits name the estate of pilot Steve Altman and the owner of the Piper aircraft, as well as the owner and the operator of the helicopter.

All nine people aboard both aircraft were killed in the Aug. 8 collision.

The lawsuits were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Newark by family members of Fabio Gallazzi, Giacomo Gallazzi, Tiziana Pedroni, Filippo Norelli, and Michele Norelli – the Italian tourists. All were aboard a Eurocopter operated by Liberty Helicopters, Inc. of Linden, and participating in a sightseeing tour of New York City along the Hudson River.

The suits, which allege several parties were to blame in the deaths of the Italian tourists, seek damages for each victim, including judgments against Liberty and Meridian for the pain and suffering of the victims’ families, funeral expenses, among other costs.

Attorneys for the Italian victims did not respond to phone or e-mail requests for comment.

Meridian Consulting I Corporation, Inc., also of Linden, is owner of the helicopter, while LCA Partnership of Pennsylvania owned the Piper aircraft. Representatives from the companies could not be reached for comment.

The helicopter departed from the West 30th Street Heliport in New York at 11:52 a.m., and the Piper left Teterboro Airport at 11:49 a.m., according to the suits.

Neither pilot filed a flight plan, but Altman contacted Teterboro for departure clearance to Ocean City at an altitude of 3,000 feet, proceeding down the Hudson River, the complaints said.

The Teterboro controller assigned Altman an altitude of 1,100 feet and later cleared him to join the Hudson River southbound, the complaints said. However, the complaints allege the controller didn’t warn Altman about other air traffic in the area, and that just shortly after 11:52 a.m., the Teterboro controller told Altman to get further clearances from Newark Airport’s control tower.

The complaints further alleged that Newark asked Teterboro to give the Piper a new frequency; Altman later read back the frequency, but it was wrong, and he was never corrected.

The two aircraft collided shortly after 11:53 a.m., the suits state.

The complaints state there were just two people working in Teterboro at the time of the crash, and that the shift manager was negligent in leaving the premises without telling anyone of his whereabouts. The controller in Teterboro, meanwhile, spent two minutes conducting personal business just before the collision.

The court filings also state the Federal Aviation Administration’s procedures for controlling Hudson River traffic were outdated, and that the federal agency should have known that failing to update its air traffic control procedures could put people at risk for injury or death.

It also says the Teterboro supervisor was “grossly negligent, reckless and wanton” in leaving work to conduct personal business on government time and failing to monitor flight traffic. It also said the controller’s laziness and distraction resulted in Altman not getting the correct frequency, and ultimately contributing to the deaths of the five Italians.

In addition, a separate administrative claim has been filed against the FAA, according to the lawsuits. A call to the FAA was referred to the U. S. Department of Justice, which could not be reached for comment.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed for Italian tourists killed in crash
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