News

Parents of EPA plane crash victim sue pilot, firm

Andrew Ingram of Palo Alto was killed along with pilot Doug Bourn

The parents of a man who died in a plane crash in East Palo Alto in February filed a lawsuit Tuesday (Aug. 17) alleging that the plane's pilot, who also died in the crash, was negligent in taking off even though heavy fog created dangerous conditions.

The suit was filed by Paul and Barbara Ingram, the parents of 31-year-old Andrew Ingram of Palo Alto, and seeks unspecified damages from the estate of 56-year-old pilot Douglas Bourn and the company he ran, Air Unique Inc.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the twin-engine Cessna 310 that Bourn piloted struck power lines and a PG&E tower at 7:54 a.m. on Feb. 17.

The plane was about 50 feet above the ground and had just departed from the Palo Alto Municipal Airport. It was heading to Hawthorne, Calif.

All three men on the plane -- Ingram, Bourn and 42-year-old Brian Finn of East Palo Alto -- died in the crash. They all worked for Tesla Motors of Palo Alto.

No one on the ground was injured.

The lawsuit, which was filed in San Mateo County Superior Court by Burlingame attorney Frank Pitre, alleges: "This crash was foreseeable and avoidable had the owner and operator of the aircraft (Bourn) demonstrated concern for the safety of his passengers, instead of blatant disregard for his lack of recent flying experience, poor weather and the condition of his aircraft before deciding to embark on a risky take-off."

The suit also states: "Bourn knew that the airport and surrounding area was shrouded in dense fog, with visibility limited to one-eighth of a mile."

It alleges that Bourn was warned on two separate occasions by an air traffic controller at the Palo Alto airport that he was not cleared for take-off "because the runway was not visible."

The suit says Bourn was instructed to turn right within 1 mile of taking off but instead turned left and struck the high-voltage power lines.

Ingram's parents, who live in Ferndale, Wash., have suffered damages "from the loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace and moral support of their son," the lawsuit states.

A third plaintiff in the suit is Kathleen Trafton, the administrator of Andrew Ingram's estate. The suit says she has been forced to incur funeral and burial expenses and other economic losses.

Joshua Cawthra, lead aviation accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told the Weekly on Aug. 11 that the investigation into the cause of the crash is still ongoing. A report is expected by the end of the year, he said.

Pitre said that although NTSB's report is not complete, communications with the pilot and the control tower on the day of the accident show key facts that have resulted in filing the suit.

"The control tower clearly instructed the pilot to take off at his own risk. ... The pilot exhibited extremely reckless judgment," he said.

Pitre said the plaintiffs will want to see the log books and to have independent experts examine the wreckage, regardless of the NTSB report.

"We believe there will be important information that could include the instrumentation and functioning of the aircraft and if there were maintenance and design issues. Those are questions hopefully NTSB will look into," he said.

The three crash victims were on their way to Tesla Motors facilities in southern California when the crash occurred. Tesla Motors has not been implicated in the lawsuit, Pitre said. Other defendants could be named, "but it's all premature until we get evidence," he said.

Attorneys for Bourn's estate and Air Unique Inc. could not be reached.

Related material:

Witness saw plane 'suddenly appear from the fog,' federal report states

Video/photos: Feb. 17 plane crash, power outage

Three Tesla employees die in plane crash

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Gordon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 6:43 am

"the plane's pilot, who also died in the crash, was negligent in taking off even though heavy fog created dangerous conditions."

Negligent even though heavy fog created dangerous conditions? That makes no sense at all.


Like this comment
Posted by Rolling Eyes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

Anytime anyone has any money to sue for, people seek payment. Yawn.


Like this comment
Posted by Worried Mind
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:35 am

Anytime IMC is present you need to know what you are doing.

How many post will we have from pilots that have lost their medical?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

Good luck to them, this was a completely avoidable tragedy for everyone ... AND THERE IS NO REASON I CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN TOMORROW, THE NEXT DAY, IN A YEAR OR ANY OTHER TIME SOMEONE DECIDES TO PUT OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES AT RISK TO SHOW OFF THEIR PRESUMED PILOTING SKILLS.

Gordon, are you really not able to parse that sentence? Rolling Eyes, wonder what you would do when the only remedy is a financial one? Worried Mind .... what is IMC and what does medical have to do with this?

Folks, it's been a while, but this disaster could have, and by all rights should have been much worse. Luckily no one on the ground was hurt, and our power could be turned back in within the day.

Depending on human judgement concerning something like flying where the decisions are made by people who have other considerations than safety and believe they will never have something like this happen to them is a Russian roulette gun aimed at the city and this will happen again at some point.

There is no overriding need for that airport. The noise it generates is a nuisance, and make the Baylands much less fun and natural than it should be, and the land there could be put to so much better use for people and the environment ... let's get rid of this threat and enjoy our coast. How man cities in the country do not even have a waterfront, and we squander ours.


Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 10:41 am

I can understand requesting pay for "...incur funeral and burial expenses and other economic losses." But the rest....I guess money does buy "...love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace and moral support.." I'm sorry, I really feel for the parent's of Ingram - losing a son is the worst and so young but will the money really ease the pain? If they do get paid I hope they donate it all to a worthy charity and not use it to pay off bills or buy stuff.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

The aircraft and pilot were legal to take off in those conditions. That's it.


Like this comment
Posted by benjamin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

Children (off spring) who died, specially those who are already in the workforce, do indeed offer their parents a prospect of financial support if needed and besides companionship also moral and emotional comfort. i know what comfort it brings my mother to know that I'm available to her for chatting, advice deprived of ulterior motives, help in sorting out life's challenges specially those that come with age. I also know how much it would cost my mother (my late father also had access to those very same comforts) to have to pay someone to perform just some of the many comforting tasks I'm undertaking. To ignore the price of those things is at least to be blind. In addition, the parents' everyday loss and life stopping overwhelming pain must and can be somewhat quantified. The money doesn't ease the pain- it quantifies the loss of life and it and replaces some of the expenditures and return on those that parents rightfully can expect.

The pilot ignored the conditions created by the fog, which left him with no options in the catastrophic event. We will probably know whether the crash was due to transposition on the numbers the pilot entered , mechanical failure or any other cause. But, the pilot's intent on taking off in those atmospheric conditions conditions spelled disaster.


Like this comment
Posted by K
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

We live in fear every 20 mins you hear a lil Cessna buzz the roof of our homes. I am glad more attention is being paid to this issue. It was intensly foggy that morning and stupid for him to take off (and was warned twice).


Like this comment
Posted by Proud Liberal
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Please, not another thread about the airport.

If you really live in fear for your lives, then why did you decide to live near an airport?

I think it is very sad that the parents are bringing more pain into the lives of the pilot's family. Suing is the American disease. It won't bring their son back. The money, if they receive it, can't replace their son. It is sad if they thought that their son should be the provider of comfort in their old age. Money cannot replace the love of a child and this will not help in their healing or grieving, just prolong it.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Candid honesty is rare and refreshing. I therefore applaud Resident's acknowledgement that airports are hazardous and present a mortal danger to their neighbors.

So, just like we do not tolerate chemical plants and the like that pose hazards for their neighbors, we should not tolerate airports near residential areas.

Close the airport ASAP. We have much more pressing uses for that land. And, as Resident points out, we'll all be safer too.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Paul, you put words in my mouth(or my fingers). I said nothing of the sort. I just can't stand the people with imagined fears expecting the airport to be closed.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmmm
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Trying to cash in on the death of loved ones seems kind of rotten and greedy to me. Is that how people "memorialize" their loved ones nowadays?


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Bottom line: The pilot of the aircraft is responsible for it's operation.

I've lived in the path of the flight pattern ( actually in the neighborhood mentioned ) and find it troubling that people are becoming this arrogant about safety in the SFBA....

I enjoyed watching the takeoffs & landings as a child in EPA. When there was dense fog, NO AIRCRAFT! When the morning fog burned off, flights resumed...

When I did Ground School at Foothill, our original 99 CFI discussed the SAFE way to fly a plane.

This pilot violated several basic safety rules and the estate must pay the price for the STUPID ACTIONS he performed!

People in the SFBA had better start realizing that flying, along with driving, requires RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR!

Traveling in 3 axes entails much more responsibility than in just two axes...and I've darn little of that responsibility in the SFBA....


Like this comment
Posted by Greedy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Nice! The pilot's family lost a loved one, too, and now they get hit with a bogus law suit? I feel bad for all of the families, but this move to sue looks very sleazy from the outside. Life is all about risks. Everyone is into the blame game these days. Too bad that once again, someone is out to get rich off of a tragedy.

It's FAR TOO EASY to file a law suit these days. Too many ambulance-chasing lawyers, too!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

>> The aircraft and pilot were legal to take off in those conditions. That's it.

We'll see I guess.

Playing the blame the victims for being crass or money-oriented is a shallow fool's game ... this is how we do things. Did any of you complain with the women sued the construction company who technically did not put in place the right amount of construction alerts on Sandhill when she chose to go bike riding and ran her bike into a rock and fell over hitting her head. Very sad, but there is no way that negligence contributed 2.5 million dollars to her death.

At least this might create some drag and friction for people doing careless or risky thing at the airport ... and if this was legal ... and there is no local recourse for Palo Alto being able to say at ITS OWN AIRPORT ... THAT WE WILL NOT ALLOW RISKY TAKE-OFFS. How can that be?

My stomach just turns when I hear the sniveling disingenuous posts of the people here trying to slough this off as just the cost of everyone else must bear for the great benefit of the airport being in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:54 pm

"Paul, you put words in my mouth(or my fingers). I said nothing of the sort."

You said what you said very well, and, as I responded, I respect your honesty.

For a very long time arrogant airport advocates have flippantly advised people not to live around airports if they don't like airplane noise or, as you stated, they fear for their lives. I think it's time to end this tyranny of the majority by a small minority and move general aviation airports out of populated areas, starting with PAO. The February crash illustrates the reality of the danger you indicated, whether you intended to or not.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm

>> Bottom line: The pilot of the aircraft is responsible for it's operation.

Tell that to the victims ... and the people who died in 911. A system that is used by the public has to be open to being audited and evalutated for risks and dangers. Somehow this airport thing has been set up ... as most things to cut out the public.

Somehow our great democracy has gone from government by the people to coersion of the people by the corporations to shut and up and pay and risk and pay and risk, and shut up.

This is going to change, everyone is more and more fed up of this kind of society.


Like this comment
Posted by benjamin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I am quite sure that Andrew's parents know that money cannot bring their son back, neither can it erase their pain and longing. It is not very difficult, I think, to understand that even parents who do not expect to depend on their children when they grow old find comfort in the thought that family, and off spring in particular, are those most parents trust and who can support one another in need. It's not really very challenging to understand this. That's why courts put a price on the loss of a loved one. There are several ways (already employed in this forum) to twist a lawsuit intentions by attributing to the plaintiffs bad ones. But for those who lost a beloved son to an avoidable accident, there is nothing they can do except precisely to ask that a declaration of of liability be entered on their behalf by the courts. If the pilot was at fault, then his estate must pay.

Funny that people should ask why somebody doesn't move away from the airport*, but those very same do not assume that college terrace residents should move instead of asking the city to fix things their way. Double standard?

* I think the airport should stay and change its rules.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Paul

I think you know exactly what I am talking about and just choose to misunderstand to prove a point.

If someone has a fear of heights, they should not live in a penthouse, does that make sense? If someone has a fear of dogs, they should not live next to a dog run. Does that make sense? If someone has a fear of airplanes falling out of the sky, they should not live near an airport. Does that make sense?

I said nothing at all that would make me agree that someone has a right to fear airplanes falling out the sky if they live near an airport. I respect that some people do fear heights, dogs, airplanes, spiders, snakes, open spaces and various other things that the rest of us see as having no danger. I also expect that people with these fears do their best to avoid whatever it is that they fear.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Koa states:"The aircraft and pilot were legal to take off in those conditions. That's it."

If a pilot breaks the law then that is a criminal offense and the pilot is punished by the law - if he is still alive to be punished.

If a pilot does something which is unreasonable or stupid but still legal then he or his estate are liable for civil claims - which will be determined in a civil court. Filing a civil suit is the first step in that process and such a suit does not require that the pilot did something illegal.

I may NO judgment as to what happened in this case because I was not there.




Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm

>> If a pilot does something which is unreasonable or stupid but still legal then he or his estate are liable for civil claims - which will be determined in a civil court.<<

This standard is not good enough for someone's whose negligence, bad intentions, incompetence, or just accident can affects so many other people.

I do not see why you supporters of the airport do not get that?

Basically the equation is that they are fine with sentencing someone else to disaster, as long as it's not immediate, anonymous, and does not happen often enough to actually incite a group to mob and tear the airport apart brick by brick. How much will people bear, and then push them a little more to serve money.

This type of governing is just as incompetent as the logic that put it in place, but the gradation is that no one with enough real power probably lives in an area where they feel threatened by anything that the airport can bring down on them and those that do have their decisions made for them.

Few situations mirror the big picture of what is wrong with America like this one in microcosm. Who deserves to live and who deserves to die ... kept out of sight and fixed when it comes to winning and hushed up when it comes to paying for it all.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Anon states:">> If a pilot does something which is unreasonable or stupid but still legal then he or his estate are liable for civil claims - which will be determined in a civil court.<<

This standard is not good enough for someone's whose negligence, bad intentions, incompetence, or just accident can affects so many other people."

Please explain what standards beyond that provided by our criminal and civil justice system you would suggest? Stoning? Hanging?

And why does my explanation of the difference between the criminal and civil justice system make me "you supporters of the airport "?


Like this comment
Posted by Gordon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

The NTSB has yet to issue its report on the accident.


Like this comment
Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm

"Candid honesty is rare and refreshing." Yes, like admitting that the whole problem with the airport is the sound of airplanes overhead. "The noise it generates is a nuisance...". That's it. If the planes didn't make any noise, no one would be complaining. It is extremely rare for a plane to go down in someone's neighborhood.

These threads remind me of when I used to fly model airplanes. One day I was flying at a schoolyard and a cop showed up. He said that someone called the police because I was "buzzing her pool party". I very easily demonstrated to the cop that that was impossible, due to a stand of 100-foot-tall trees between me and the alleged "pool party". What a stupid story. If you're going to make something up, at least make it half-way believable. If this person had called the police and said "Someone is annoying me with their noise.", which was obviously the real problem, she might not have gotten any response.

So I switched to an electric plane, went back to the same schoolyard, and never got kicked out again.

You people are a bunch of whiners. Try living in San Jose with a jet airport. Your story about how the sky is falling is disingenuous. No one knows what caused that crash yet.


Like this comment
Posted by liberty
a resident of University South
on Aug 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

In case anybody is like me and wondering what kind of person files these kind of lawsuits:

Paul Ingram on the Ferndale city council.

I guess he’s just smarter than us.


Like this comment
Posted by Eliot
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:26 pm

The passengers on that flight were adults. Did the pilot hold a gun to their heads and order then to get on board? Couldn't they see the fog themselves?


Like this comment
Posted by Stupid lawsuit
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Andrew Ingram was a smart 31-year-old and knew exactly what he was getting into. Flying in these little GA plans is dangerous, period. I respect his right to take the risk (so do I), but it is sad to see Andrew's parents disgracing his memory by treating his death as an opportunity to (try to) cash in by suing the estate of his dead friend and colleague. I hope their frivolous lawsuit is laughed out of court.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I find this news unsurprising. I am ambivalent about it (as if my opinion matters) because Ingram was an adult capable of saying he wasn't going to get on that plane. But the pilot, the supposed expert, was also culpable. It may have been a macho thing, or Ingram may have felt pressure to fly, or he may have felt confident enough in the pilot's abilities & relationship w/the pilot to get on the plane.

As for those dissing EPA residents' fears about the airport, knock it off. Many of them have a bit of ptsd from the crash. When I'm in that area, I watch the sky more than normal. That's not unusual given the damage to the neighborhood & how many people saw the crash and/or its after effects.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by umm
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:48 am

maybe EPA should sue the PA airport for having to dodge planes now and then...there are lots of planes that end up stuck in the mudd out there..


Like this comment
Posted by Tax em
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:57 am

If palo alto had any planes flying above them they would have a fit about that...maybe EPA should fine the airport for all those mishaps that occur each time those planes get stuck on the mudd...and yes it doe happen more than once in a single month...


Like this comment
Posted by Mcallister Bottomswelly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

What happened was a tragedy, the loss of life is unfortunate - but accidents happen and that's the way the world rotates.

Everyone in that plane was a consenting adult, there's something called 'assumption of risk' where, upon entering a potentially life threatening situation on your own will you agree that there is risk involved. Flying in a small private plane with an unexperienced pilot rationally falls under that.

It's a shame that this guys parents are trying to cash is on his death. Yeah, they might get to take some great vacations and buy a nice car. Clink their wine glasses as they watch the sunset - 'thanks son'.

The man made his own decision to fly in that plane - do his parents think he wasn't smart enough to make his own choices? I don't understand.


Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

How many people drove cars that day? Should they not have driven because conditions were unsafe? Is it safer to fly in an empty sky or drive on a crowded freeway? Did the people in the plane have some place to be, thus chartering the flight, thus partially responsible for it occurring?


Like this comment
Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm

When I make the choice of getting into a car and I am not the driver I and the law expect the driver to exercise reasonable care and drive in a manner that's not negligent. That is exactly what is expected from the pilot of a private plane. Bourn was an experienced pilot and was his and only his the responsibility of the decision of flying that day. If the court consider that he operated the plane in a negligent manner, his estate will be liable. The parents are not trying to cash into their son's death. They seek only a modicum of acknowledgment of the responsibility for their son's death. Ignoring or diminishing the severity of the financial and emotional impact of an adult child's death (or for that matter any child of any age) is cruel, or maybe it's just lack of thinking skills and compassion exhibited in these posts.. The pilot died. Should his family receive his estate in its totality, if they know Bourn's wrong actions were the cause of others suffering and financial loss? Are they going to suffer less if they receive the totality of the estate? Are they cashing in their relative's death if they receive his estate? . There is suffering all around which the lawsuit doesn't erase. What the lawsuit does is trying to answer the question: who, if anybody , is liable for this disaster?
It seems to me that the incredibly cruel posters accusing Ingram's parents of wanting to cash in on their son's deaths are really sure that the disaster was indeed due to Bourn's negligence, otherwise they wouldn't be concerned with "cashing in", because where there wasn't negligence there wouldn't be any liability....


Like this comment
Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Robbit Noops,

The proximate cause of the disaster may not have been flying in very low visibility conditions. The proximate cause might have been another: pilot transposing characters when programing the flight (which would explain why he turned left, not right), mechanical failure, navigation problems, etc. But surely, taking off flying "blind" specially in a small aircraft near a residential area, is a problem because if you don't see you cannot remedy bad moves or an earlier mistake (transposing numbers, for example).


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

And yes, the pilot may have died of a heart attack or have had a medical emergency. We don't know these things so perhaps it would be a good idea to find out first if the pilot was "negligent" before judging him as "negligent".


Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm

damages "from the loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace and moral support of their son," Im not buying it. If you want to sue a pilot for negligence, than say damages from negligence. or say denying potential future earnings from son's successful company.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Commander McBragg>>>>>>>>
We live in Palo Alto and care about noise because we pay for it and do not want to live in San Jose.

Peter Carpenter>>>>>>>>
>>> Please explain what standards beyond that provided by our criminal and civil justice system you would suggest? Stoning? Hanging?<<<
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If there is no standard that tell a pilot not to take off in heavy fog, then the airport should not be operating. If there is not way to avoid a pilot crashing into a power tower, then the airport ought not be there.

Honestly, I thought your idea of requiring all planes to bank right out over the bay was a good one, but you got no support from the airport on that did you?

To me that means the airport is not going to do the right thing as regards safety, its standard for safety is not only inadequate, but its way of thinking and arrogance will pop out in some other way at some other time and we'll all be talking about something like this again.

Elliot>>>>>>>>
Yes, the passengers on that flight were adults, but how many people get pushed into taking risks they should not under momentary pressures. Did the passengers have anything to say about how the pilot flew the plane or what risks he took?

Sharon>>>>>>>>
Other risks just add onto our cummunlative risk, just because smoking is a big risk it does not reduce other risks.

Mcallister Bottomswelly>>>>>>>>
Tell it to the passengers of the Egyption airliner a few years back when the pilot decided to fly the plane into the ground. No one assumed that kind of risk [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Benjamin>>>>>>>>
Finally an intelligent good post! Congrats for having the brains and the guts!

Robit Noops>>>>>>>>
I disagree with your apparent world view where human feelings have no value and that earnings and money are the only things that matter in the world. I imagine your total value is thus less than your monetary value.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Anon states">>> Please explain what standards beyond that provided by our criminal and civil justice system you would suggest? Stoning? Hanging?<<<

Ger real, you know GD well that's not what I am saying,"

Well, then please explain what you are saying. Simply attacking others is not very productive.

Anon states:"to attack like that" Excuse me, what was the nature of this horrible attack that you protest about?


Like this comment
Posted by C
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Let them sue if it makes them feel better. The judge will sort it all out.
It is dangerous to fly or drive in fog. So a word to the wise don't fly or drive in fog. I know I lived in the central valley for years.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmmm
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm

OK Sharon, so what is your point and how is it relevant to the article? That airplane crashes are a minuscule danger compared to other things in EPA? If so, then that would also hold true for Palo Alto. Comparing crime statistics between the two communities does not really prove anything, though.

I never understood why people whine about the Palo Alto airport. If people are so afraid of planes then why on earth did they move near an airport? The airport has been there since WW II, long before any complaining residents. This is just like the Palo Alto residents that move near the train tracks and then bitch and moan about noise from the trains.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2010 at 10:21 pm

It's not the same as people moving near train tracks & complaining. The noise at the airport has gotten much worse. There's danger to nearby cities, danger that doesn't seem worth it for what the airport offers. The airport is lame & they should close it.


Like this comment
Posted by Solon
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2010 at 12:51 am

The Palo alto airport could use a second runway, to give an alternative angle when there is a cross wind,and to allow flights to more quickly exit the land mass and go over the bay.

Also, as far as i know, as Lee Rodgers pointed out, Tower to pilot:"I can not see the runway, proceed at your own risk." is Standard Language! I was driving in Daly City Wednesday, visibility seemed to be down to about 400 feet! On the city streets, everyone was driving.

The tower's meaning is that, at the tower, we cqn not see all the runway clearly to advise you that there is no other plne, or de, or cow on the runway, but since you are the pilot, and you are right there, if you can see the runway is clear, no cows, or planes, then go ahead, it is legal and proper to use your own judgment. in this case, runway clearance does not seem to be an issue, and I was very surprised to see that pleaded.

Also, did not the mercury news say that california law prevents co employees from suit? This seems ot be an employment related fatality.Does that affect parents's remedies? Or was it the IPO?Is Tesla the target?

iIs take off on auto pilot? A programmed turn under 1,500 feet would truly surprise me.


Like this comment
Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2010 at 4:53 am

The pilot and only the pilot was responsible for the decision to take off.
If suddenly there is a vacuum system failure (for example, we don't know what happened) and he cannot read the compass or If disorientation precludes a visual determination of the direction, dense fog is a problem. Also, If an engine failure occurs during the takeoff run, the most important thing to do is stop the airplane on the remaining runway but if you can't see it then it's a problem. Anything could have happened and we just have to wait for the report.

The comparison with car driving through dense fog with a 400 feet visibility is not valid though, because the risks on a flight are compounded, the damage resulting from a mishap much much higher and because at a 400 visibility you still can see.. Maybe a comparison with driving a fuel tanker in dense fog (in which the driver is unable to see) through a crowded city is apt. Would you say that's wise?

When employees go to work at a far away place and their employers pay for public or private transportation that's a company matter that entails worker's comp, but when an employee chooses an alternative method, such as taking a ride with a friend, it seems to me that a company cannot be held responsible. I don't know California law but it's generally the case. Obviously, Ingram trusted Bourn's judgement in airplane matters and all three families are devastated. But I see no reason why Bourn's family has more right to receive the proceeds of his estate than the other victims if he (and only if) was negligent and that's the cause of their death.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

It's very obvious that the pilot should never have taken off in such conditions. It seems that he compounded his poor judgment and perhaps arrogance by turning left after 1 mile, instead of turning right, as instructed, thus hitting the power poles. However, there will always be irresponsible and arrogant pilots-I notice them ever early morning and night, buzzing noisily and unnecessarily over my neighborhood, and I don't even live next door to the airport. The overriding problem is that this airport is located right next to residential neighborhoods, and a terrible disaster is not a matter of if, but a matter of when and of how many fatalities it will produce. There is absolutely no reason for this airport to exist in its present location, and this is an even greater problem than irresponsible pilots and the airport administration which allows them to get away with that behavior.


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Posted by Al
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2010 at 10:30 am

I think it would great to make that location in to a mini race track where kids and adults can their speeding done in a controled environment. Instead of the hills or city streets, people will have a place to auto-cross, burn tires....LEGALLY.
Many cities around the country offer a safe place for this, why not here?
Save lives while generating revenue.
I am not joking, just think about it.


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Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm

If my view is that everybody is partially responsible for their actions, than thats my right. The passengers had the ability to ask the pilot is it really safe to fly in these conditions. And the tower warned the pilot about flying in those conditions, why didnt they ground all outgoing flights?Maybe its the airports fault.

I dont really care if the family sues or not, but I personally don't believe in lawsuits other than for reasonable damages. Suppose the pilot had children. You are going to sue his estate and penalize his kids?


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Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Those who have children are not exempt from liability . If your negligence is the cause of
an accident YOU are liable. How your actions affect your children is not a concern of the court system be in in criminal or civil , but it is your concern. So, there are several ways of protecting them, but you are liable to the extent of your estate. One of the victims of the disaster has a child. Should that child be penalized for the actions of the pilot (assuming the pilot is liable which is far from certain)? I think that you are best disingenuous because if you have an accident caused by another are you going to say" Oh gee, I better find out if this person has dependents . If he/she has I am not suing as to not penalize them" ?
Are sure you understand two concepts: strict liability and punitive damages? It seems to me you don't.
We don't know what was said on the plane, but we know that once it was in the air the passengers had NO CONTROL over its operation (which obviously they had assumed it was going to be safe). I'm all for not penalizing people for genuine accidents, that is those which are caused by instances beyond one's reasonable control and beyond reasonable expectation. But was it departing in so low visibility that the airport said more or less "you are on your own" a reasonable pilot move under the circumstances? That's the question.
The airport issued clear guidelines.

I predict an out of court settlement independently from the findings.


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Posted by Solon
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Airport does not appear to have done anything wrong.

The pilot had proper permission to takeoff, was apparently instrument rated, can fly legally and safely in near zero visibility.

"proceed at your own risk" means the FAA approved tower proceduresand communications were in fact followed: the fog prevented the tower from a clear view of the entire runway, so in that case the tower does not "clear" you, the instrument rated pilot must use her own experience and judgment, look down the runway, and since they are hundreds of feet closer, cand see. That the runway is in fact "clear" (meaning no cows or cars or fire engines or planes on the runway) if it can be seen by the pilot, then it is fine to take off.

It is simply not true or meaningful that "proceed at your own risk" means the pilot did ANYTHING wrong. It could still be mechanical, navigational, medical emergency, geese, air draft, stall and so on. PIlot error is of course a possibility.

What I consider to be a possible cause has not yet been mentioned so I do not feel I should speculate.


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Posted by Midtown Engineer
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2010 at 4:05 am

This was an accident. Anyone smart enough to get a job at Tesla is smart enough to know that hitting power lines in the fog is bad for your health. They knew the risks and I'm sure they made the decision to "go for it" more or less jointly.

The pilot has already paid for his mistake with his life.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2010 at 5:36 am

It is indeed cruel beyond belief to call parents who lost a child jealous (of an estate). The pilot, who is the ONLY person responsible for the operation of the flight (nobody made him do it) is the only bearer of responsibility for what is under his control.
Nobody knows what the three victims said to each other, but even if they said "go ahead" the pilot is still the only one who is in charge. The pilot has not paid anything to anybody. It's his estate (which doesn't belong to anybody until its final disposition) which will be the payer of any settlement or court order.

Surely the parents thought long and hard before giving notice of the lawsuit. It is their only redress in their situation and it can't be pleasant for them, to say the least. But if somebody's actions are the cause of a tragedy they can be assessed penalties in civil court. Bourn was not above the law. And maybe another pilot will think twice before
assuming for others an unreasonable risk if that was the case.

What is appalling is that the wrath that is being spewed on these parents by people who claim to know that their son better than they do. How arrogant!

It was an accident, not on purpose surely, but if there was a person responsible for the accident, then it is that person's estate that will assume liability. Nothing new here. It is like that in ANY accident just in case you haven't noticed.










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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2010 at 5:55 am

A commercial airline pilot would never have taken off under such conditioned, this pilot did. He was instructed to turn right after 1 mile, yet turn left, killing himself, his passengers, and only miraculously not wiping out an entire child care center. Why in the world shouldn't his estate be liable for his recklessness and fatally poor judgment?


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Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2010 at 9:06 am

In 1999, when John F kennedy took off from Essex county airport he was advised of the weather conditions : there wasn't a cloud in the sky which was blue and extremely bright offering a featureless horizon. He still took off under these conditions. In the same airport and at the same time with the same destination and condition, commercial pilots (United) refused to fly by instruments due to the danger of haze induced disorientation ( the cause of the crash). Kennedy (who had no instrument qualification) went ahead with an excess of confidence and as a result he and his passengers died. A settlement of some 15 million dollars was payed to the family of the dead passengers.

I am not suggesting that the two accidents are similar, what I am saying is that pilots shouldn't ignore the dangers of flying blind, even with instruments, and the range of their own experiences.
It was reported (and I don't know if this is true) that commercial flights in the Bay Area were delayed on the account of the weather that morning.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Midtown Engineer - you can't really know what they were thinking. Obviously, hey decided to fly together because they ended up dying together. This has nothing to do w/intelligence, but a lot to do w/bad judgment. I know puhlenty of bright Sili Valley techies who use lousy judgment in certain areas of their lives.


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Posted by Cynthia
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2010 at 9:57 am

Why do we have to feel sorry for the people in the plane because they were white? If a plane fell on your house while you were minding your business you would be upset too! You sound like fools! You are always talking about something someone wants from you, when in reality you wouldn't have anything if these people's ancestor's wouldn't have built this country on their backs for free! And their offspring have to suffer for it by being discriminated against every since until you stop breathing. I find it pitiful and disgusting. You don't know any of these people but you find time to "judge" them constantly. What have they done to you personally? Or are you just the perfect people you want everyone to believe? Pitiful and disgusting!


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Posted by Cynthia
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

Thank God none of the children were in the childcare when this accident happened, but if they were, I'm sure the comments would be the same, cause the children didn't look like yours.

That's too bad! But once again, what if it did happen to your children, the comments would not be the same, that is my point. Anything involving something happening to ANYONE in EPA the comments are almost always negative, human beings are human beings. Color obviously matters more to those that choose to judge by color and "status". Plus, you would never dream of saying any of these comments to their faces without an army behind you.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:34 am

Cynthia, no one has posted anything racial in these comments except for you. I understand, I think, what you're talking about, but why do you think it applies here? Why is the race of those in the plane relevant? Right after this crash, the response I saw from people within & outside of EPA had nothing to do w/race. Everyone was upset & horrified & at the same time, relieved that no one on the ground was injured or killed. We all know this crash could've killed more than it did.

You're right in that many comments about anything in EPA are stupid, nasty comments not based in fact, but rather, steeped in media bias because they only know what they read in the papers. But that doesn't seem to be the case with this incident. If you disagree, please let me know what I'm missing.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I would have probably chosen different words, but I agree with Cynthia's gist. If the people living right next to this airport weren't largely black or brown, relatively poor and devoid of any political influence, this airport would have been shut down decades ago. It's a shameful disgrace that the affluent residents of Palo Alto, of which I am one, although in my own defense, I've been calling for its shut down for the last 30 years, are allowing this travesty to take place instead of doing the neighborly righteous thing and force its closure.


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Posted by benjamin
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, 5 hours ago

"Cynthia, no one has posted anything racial in these comments except for you. "

actually, someone named *Sharon did and the comments were deleted. Sharon, of Midtown seems a little bit obsessed with EPA...


*not the real Sharon


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

(1) The placement of the PA airport has nothing to do with race. The San Carlos/Redwood Shores airport is adjacent to a residential area too -- an affluent, largely white, neighborhood.

(2) There had been/have been no crashes under similar conditions at PA Airport or other Bay Area private plan airports. This was an accident.

(3) The parents have filed a suit out of their horrid grief. Leave them alone, let the court deal with it.

Palo Alto residents....Stop using this tragedy for your own personal agendas.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

The San Carlos airport is not located as near to a residential neighborhood as this airport and goes out of its way to minimize danger and noise, unlike the Palo Alto airport, which tolerates low buzzing over houses, which can be witnessed on a daily basis. There have been plenty of crashes near the PA airport over the years, but they happened in the bay lands. There are no guarantees that other pilots will not behave as recklessly as this pilot who miraculously didn't take out an entire child-care center. Can you imagine this airport staying open if the plane hit a child care center in north Palo Alto? Those claiming that the continuing operation of this unnecessary airport has nothing to do with race need to look themselves in the mirror.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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