Widow Sues Richmor Aviation over Crash — (The Daily Gazette)

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The Daily Gazette

By Daphne Stein, Gazette Reporter

August 3, 2001

BALLSTON SPA – The widow of a Broadalbin man killed in a plane crash last year while learning to fly is suing the company he took lessons from for $42.5 million.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Deberah C Sutch in State Supreme Court of July 20 claims that negligence by Richmor Aviation led to the death of her husband, Alfred W. Sutch Jr.

Richmor operates a flight instruction school at the Saratoga County airport, where the accident occurred.

Sutch’s flight instructor, Daniel J. Melita, 24, of Gloversville was also killed in the March 30 crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff.   No one knows who was piloting the plane at the time.

The suit suggests it was Melita who was at the controls.   It claims that Richmor was negligent in “failing to engage a flight instructor who maintained proper… control of the aircraft [and] in failing to engage a flight instructor who properly… commanded the aircraft in an emergency setting.”   The claimn of negligence also suggests that Melita violated air traffic rules.    The claim does not say how he allegedly violated those rules.

The suit claims that: “the conduct of defendant constitutes gross negligence and wanton disregard for the life, health and safety of [Sutch] and the public generally.”

Richmor`s attorney, Eugene Massamillo, of Beidermann, Hoenig, Massimillo and Ruff, P.C. said Thursday, “There is absolutely no statement in the [National Aviation Safety Board accident] report that the instructor did anything wrong.  He was a very well qualified instructor.”

The suit further claims that RIchmore failed to properly maintain and repair its planes, and that contributed to the crash.   The plane, a 1985 Cessna 72P, had been involved in a 1996 crash in Rutland, Vt.

But the NTSB reported “No  evidence of a pre-existing mechanical failure or malfunction was found with the airplane or engine.”    The only pre-existing condition that the NTSB found was that Alfred Sutch had been taking the antidepressant Prozac daily for about six months prior to the crash.

A toxicology report issued by the Federal Aviation Administration`s Toxicology Research laboratory in Oklahoma said the chemical in Prozac was found in Alfred Sutch`s blood.

The Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, the NTSB reported, “The use of a psychotropc drug is considered disqualifying.   This includes all…antidepressant drugs.”    An NTSB check of Alfred Sutch’s medical application, filed three months before the crash, revealed that he claimed not to be on prescription or non-prescription medication.

Toxicological testing on Melita was negative for drugs and alcohol.   Ultimately, the NTSB ruled that the accident was due to “a loss of control for undetermined reason(s).”

This is unfortunate and a terrible tragedy for Mr. Sutch and his family and the flight instructor and his family.   But if you look at the NTSB report, I believe you will not find that they found we did anything improperly”, Massimillo said.

Neither Deberah Sutch nor her attorney, William J. Cade, or Cade and Saunders of Albany, P.C in Albany, could be reached for comment.