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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Son of Spokane’s Patricia Hicks files fourth lawsuit in deadly Whidbey Island floatplane crash

U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue director Scott J. Giard speaks at a news conference on Whidbey Island in 2022 about efforts to find survivors of the floatplane that crashed.  (Seattle Times)
By Paige Cornwell Seattle Times
Patricia Hicks, seen in this undated photo, was killed in a floatplane crash on Puget Sound on Sept. 4, 2022.  (Courtesy Alphonzo Hicks)
Patricia Hicks, seen in this undated photo, was killed in a floatplane crash on Puget Sound on Sept. 4, 2022. (Courtesy Alphonzo Hicks)

SEATTLE – The son of Patricia Hicks, one of the 10 people killed in last year’s Whidbey Island floatplane crash, has filed the fourth lawsuit against the flight’s charter operator and aircraft manufacturer, mirroring representatives who sued last month on behalf of the remaining eight passengers.

All four lawsuits name several aviation entities, including Northwest Seaplanes and de Havilland Aircraft of Canada, as defendants and say the companies are responsible for the victims’ deaths in the crash off Whidbey Island in September 2022. Hicks’ son filed the lawsuit Tuesday in King County Superior Court.

Hicks, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher, was returning from a vacation in the San Juan Islands with her partner, Sandy Williams, when the single-engine de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Turbine Otter plummeted into Puget Sound. Her remains were identified a month later. Williams, 60, was a civil rights activist and founder of the Carl Maxey Center and the Black Lens newspaper in Spokane.

The complaints allege the aviation companies are liable for damages.

Representatives for the estates of Lauren Hilty, 39, and her unborn son, Luca; Joanne Mera; Gabrielle Hanna; and Williams filed one wrongful death lawsuit. Representatives for Hilty’s husband, Ross Mickel, 47, and their 22-month-old son Remy Mickel filed the second lawsuit. Representatives for Rebecca and Luke Ludwig, a Minnesota couple who had two children, filed the third.

Pilot Jason Winters was also killed in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday released more than 500 pages of its ongoing investigation of the crash.

Though not a final report, the trove of crash documents, witness interviews and other media show the NTSB is focused on the design and maintenance of the actuator that could have come apart and caused the crash. Disconnection of the actuator, which moves the horizontal tail and controls the airplane’s pitch, would have caused the plane to dive in a near-vertical descent into the water.