JACKSONVILLE, Fla., June 14 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — The families of three U.S. Army personnel who were killed when the airplane transporting them across
Afghanistan slammed into a mountain are now filing suit for negligence against
Blackwater. Blackwater is a large civilian contractor to the U.S. military
and provides both support equipment and personnel in areas of conflict around
the world, including Iraq. On November 27, 2004 Lieutenant Colonel Michael
McMahon, Chief Warrant Officer Travis Grogan and Specialist Harley Miller were
passengers on a flight from Bagram Airfield to an airfield near Farah, an area
close to Afghanistan’s western boarder with Iran.
The aircraft, a Casa 212, owned and operated by Blackwater-related
companies, was approximately 30 minutes from takeoff and attempting to cross a
mountain ridge of approximately 16,500 feet when it crashed at an elevation of
approximately 14,650 feet, killing everyone on board. The accident occurred in
the rugged mountains near Bamian, Afghanistan in daylight and clear weather.
Weather, mechanical issues and hostile activity have all been ruled out as
causes of the crash.
Representing the three military families who lost their husbands and
fathers in this accident is Bob Spohrer of the Jacksonville law firm of
Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell and Matthews. He is an experienced pilot and veteran
aircraft accident attorney who has successfully represented clients against
military contractors in other cases. Spohrer said, “This crash was totally
preventable. A proper flight plan had not been filed and the crew was newly
deployed in the region. The crew was north of its intended route of flight and
in violation of FAA regulations that required them to wear oxygen masks at an
elevation above 10,000 feet. Blackwater did not provide them with adequate
safety equipment including an advanced terrain awareness system, a radar
altimeter or a global positioning system. In addition, Blackwater’s people on
the ground failed to properly use the Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT)
signal to find the downed plane quickly. It could have made all the
difference to Specialist Miller, who survived the crash and died of his
injuries at the crash site. This is a contractor making enormous sums; they
can afford to do it right. Blackwater violated standards set by the FAA for a
commercial charter operator and their contract with the Department of Defense.
Above all, they failed in their safety obligations to these three U.S.
servicemen and their families.”
The lawsuit, a rare suit against a military contractor, was filed on
Friday, June 10 in Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Brevard County,
Florida, where several Blackwater-related companies are headquartered. Co-
counsel with Spohrer on this case is attorney Ned Good of the Pasadena,
California firm Good, West and Scheutze.