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Lawsuit Claims Air Traffic Controller Inaction, Wrong Information Contributed to Fatal Plane Crash

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

The family of Dr. Michael and Kim Perry has filed a $24M lawsuit against the FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation that will go their three children if awarded. Photo from Facebook 2016.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board released its findings that a plane crash that claimed the lives of six Oxford residents in 2016 was due to pilot error.

However, a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Oxford claims the conduct and inaction of several air traffic controllers contributed to the crash that killed Dr. Michael and Kim Perry, Drs. Jason and Lea Farese and Dr. Austin and Angie Poole.

The suit, filed by attorneys on behalf of the Perry Estate is seeking more than $24 million in damages from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. If awarded, the money would go to the Perry’s three children.

On Friday, attorney Phil B. Abernethy, with the Butler Snow law firm representing the Perry Estate said he was unaware whether the other two families will be filing their own lawsuit.

The plane carrying the six Oxonians was piloted by Jason Farese. The three couples were returning home to Oxford from Florida where they attended a dental convention.

Collectively, the three couples left behind 11 children.

The NTSB report states that the plane was “topped off” with 134 gallons of fuel before departing from Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Florida around 8:55 a.m. eastern time on Aug. 14, 2016.

Around 11:11 a.m. Farese reported the failure of a fuel pump and requested a diversion to the nearest airport.

When the airplane was approximately 10 miles from the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, the pilot reported that the airplane lost “the other fuel pump.”

The airplane continued to descend until it impacted trees approximately 1,650 feet prior to the approach end of runway 30 at about 11:20 a.m., landing in Northport, Alabama.

The report stated there was a total loss of power in both engines “due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s mismanagement of the fuel and his subsequent failure to follow the emergency checklist.”

However, according to a report from Richard P. Burgess, a former air traffic controller with 36 years of air traffic control experience as a controller, supervisor, facility manager and branch manager in the United States Navy and with the FAA submitted in the lawsuit, FAA Air Traffic Control Specialists James Winton and Shane Gutierrez (Atlanta ARTCC), and Kelsey Barfield and Bobby Sharp (Birmingham ATCT) “failed to comply with air traffic control procedures and protocol, and these failures were a deviation in the standard of care for Air Traffic Control Specialists. Their conduct and inactions contributed to the crash.”

One of the alleged major errors claims that after Farese advised of manifold pressure loss, Winton told him that the nearest airport was 20 miles away; however, the Tuscaloosa airport was actually 29.13 miles away.

“Had Mr. Winton relayed the proper distance information, the pilot may well have elected to divert to a closer airport considering his building loss of power. Instead, the aircraft crashed 1,650 feet short of the airport. Mr. Winton’s 9.13-mile error was catastrophic,” the suit states.

The lawsuit claims the controllers breached their duty by “failing to provide adequate assistance, failing to use appropriate checklists, negligently giving mandatory altitude restrictions to an aircraft operating on partial power, and ultimately on no power, and giving inaccurate distance information to alternate airports.”

Perry owned Mid-South Dental Implants & Periodontics. His wife, Kim, was a nurse practitioner who worked part-time for the University of Mississippi. The Fareses owned the Farese Dental Clinic in Oxford. Austin Poole owned Poole Dental Clinic in Clarksdale. His wife Angie was his office manager.


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