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Fri, Sep 05, 2008

Final Settlements Reached In 1996 Palwaukee Accident

No Further Suits May Be Filed

The participants have finally tired of a marathon lawsuit in Chicago which started more than a decade ago.

The Chicago Tribune reports it all started October 30, 1996, when four people died in the fiery crash of a twin-engine Gulfstream IV jet, following a botched takeoff from what is now known as Chicago Executive Airport (PWK).

The pilot, 53-year-old Martin Koppie, 54-year-old Aon Risk Services CEO Arthur Quern, 33-year-old flight attendant Christine Mio Anderson, and 50-year-old co-pilot Robert Hampton Whitener were leaving on a two-day round trip to Burbank, CA.

The NTSB ruled that Koppie failed to maintain control in gusty crosswinds, and didn't abort the takeoff in time, and that Whitener failed to "adequately monitor and/or take sufficient remedial action." According to cockpit tapes recovered at the accident site, one of the pilots called for "reverse," but the other urgently said, "No, no, no, go, go, go, go, go."

The jet's landing gear hit a ditch, the plane began shedding parts, and slid and burned just beyond the airport's north fence.

The plane was owned by cosmetics giant Alberto-Culver, which had a cooperative arrangement with Aon Risk Services to share each others' aircraft when needed. The NTSB said the two companies did a poor job of address takeoff procedural differences between their aircraft. The airport got some blame for the ditch, which is no longer there.

The families of all four victims got lawyers, and reached settlements or won jury verdicts in lawsuits against the companies, and against the airport, which is co-owned by the communities of Wheeling and Prospect Heights. In order to end the legal battle royale, the airport's insurance company agreed to pay $6 million to cover a portion of the loss of the jet, which was valued at over $27 million.

Wednesday's settlement means the crash can spawn no more lawsuits. Chicago Executive Airport manager Dennis Rouleau said the settlement would have no financial impact on the airport.

"I feel badly for the loss of life," Rouleau said. "It was an unfortunate accident. I'm just glad finally it's over."

FMI: Read The NTSB Probable Cause Report

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