The only survivor of a 1996 air ambulance crash is suing the federal government, claiming it should be accountable for inaccurate weather forecasts issued before the plane took off.
Paramedic Harold Livingston suffered burns to nearly half of his body and serious injuries to both knees in the Jan. 8, 1996, crash near Spokane International Airport.
Three others died.
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board said pilot David Brooks, who died in the accident, lacked experience landing by instruments in foggy conditions.
But attorneys for Livingston, 24, of Finley, Wash., said the federal government must share the blame.
“There may be fault on the part of the pilot but there may be more than one cause,” said Thomas Golden, one of Livingston’s attorneys.
Brooks, 36, clocked 3,500 hours in the cockpit of different types of aircraft. But he failed a flight certification test twice in August 1995, both times because of problems navigating by instruments rather than by sight.
The lawsuit says Brooks was told when he took off from Pasco that visibility was no worse than 300 feet at the Spokane airport. When the plane arrived, visibility was down to 100 feet.
As he came in for a landing, Brooks suddenly veered left, descended, topped off a telephone pole and crashed into the Ace Tank and Equipment Co. building near the airport.
Investigators initially wondered if a cellular phone transmission from the nurse to the hospital was responsible for the plane’s sudden change in course. Tests later determined that the plane’s instruments probably would not have been affected by the cell phone.
The state’s worker compensation laws protect Brooks and Aeromed from lawsuits stemming from the crash, Livingston’s attorneys said.