Family of late Medical Mutual of Ohio CEO suing charter airline for fatal plane crash

Kent ClappCLEVELAND, Ohio — The family of Kent W. Clapp, the late CEO of health insurer Medical Mutual of Ohio, has sued the charter airline company involved in the Dec. 3, 2008, crash that claimed the lives of Clapp and his fiancee, Tracy Turner.

The lawsuit, which demands an award of $100 million, was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

“It was a tragic loss for his many children, and also for the business and health care community in Ohio and across the country,” attorney Jamie R. Lebovitz told Channel 3 News.

Lebovitz of Ohio injury law firm Nurenberg Paris represents the Clapp estate. “It’s a crash that never should have happened,” Lebovitz said.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and wrongful death on the behalf of Websta’s Aviation Services Inc. of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The suit also alleges Websta’s did not properly equip the turbo-prop plane with ground-sensing equipment that could have prevented the crash.

Clapp and Turner, both of Avon Lake, died when the airplane crashed into a mountain in Puerto Rico. Ken Webster, the pilot, was Websta’s president and also died in the crash.

“Kent single handedly turned the [troubled] Medical Mutual around, and he had a long career ahead of him that was cut short,” Lebovitz said. “This didn’t have to happen.”

Lebovitz said the Clapp estate also has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration, asking for damages of $52 million. The complaint states that the air traffic controller guiding the plane into Luis Munoz Marin Airport failed to direct it away from the mountain.

“If the air traffic controller would have done her job, she would never have [sent] this airplane toward the mountain,” Lebovitz said.

Lebovitz said Webster was flying in clouds and radioed the air traffic controller to change his heading because he couldn’t see the ground below him, court documents show. The controller who had him heading toward the mountain failed to direct him to change his course, Lebovitz said.

The complaint to the FAA also states the plane should not have been certified for commercial use because ground-sensing equipment was not installed. “If the FAA had properly checked out the safety features on the plane, it never would have been certified in the first place,” Lebovitz said.

He added that the FAA has six months to accept or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, the FAA will be added to the civil suit, Lebovitz said. Websta’s airplanes now are owned by Ramo LLC, a Florida-based business that also is being sued by the Clapp family.

© 2009 WKYC-TV

[Photo courtesy of WKYC]

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