Bellevue pilot sues after near-fatal crash

Bellevue pilot sues after near-fatal crash

A Bellevue man is suing an aviation company he claims was negligent in maintaining a Cessna aircraft he test flew in 2005. Shane Lester said in the lawsuit the plane went into a sudden nose dive for 45 seconds at more than 280 mph before he and another pilot gained control of the craft and averted a possibly fatal crash. The Cessna took flight from Eppley Airfield at about 1:25 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2005, according to the lawsuit, and landed at the Lincoln airport at a time unspecified in the complaint.

Lester blames the incident on a mechanical malfunction he alleges was due to the negligence of Garrett Aviation Services. Kathryn Derr of Omaha filed the lawsuit in Douglas County District Court last month. The lawsuit was transferred to U.S. District Court this week. Lester is alleging he has suffered severe “mental pain, anguish ... and nervous shock” because of his “reasonable fear of immediate personal injury or death” during the incident. Neither he nor Derr could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Omaha attorney Terry A. White, Domina Law Group pc llo, who is representing Garrett Aviation, said she filed an answer to the lawsuit on behalf of the company in Douglas County District Court.

The answer generally denies the allegations, and argues, among other things, that Lester assumed some risk by piloting the plane. “Plaintiff was engaged in a hazardous activity and understood that piloting an aircraft is a dangerous activity itself,” White said in the answer. According to the lawsuit, Lester and Steve Gass heard a loud noise from the tail of the plane about two minutes into the flight and at an elevation of 12,000 feet. The plane immediately went into a nose dive and came within 20 to 30 seconds of crashing, Lester alleged in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the Federal Aviation Administration later determined that Garrett Aviation had been negligent in its maintenance of the plane.

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