PA-32 Went Down In Heavy Fog Near JAX; All Four On Board Were
A federal judge in Jacksonville (FL) ruled Tuesday that the FAA was
partly responsible for the crash of a Piper PA-31 Cherokee in 2001.
All four people on board were killed.
The aircraft, which had departed Fort Lauderdale Executive
Airport, went down in heavy fog after the pilot, lawyer Don
Weidner, executed a missed approach. The Cherokee (file photo of
type, below) crashed in woods so thick that it took recovery teams
16 hours to reach the wreckage
Weidner, fellow attorney Thomas Bowden, and their friends, Jim
and Adrienne Abrisch, were killed in the accident.
At the end of a non-jury trial on
Tuesday, federal judge Timothy Corrigan ruled that the FAA was
65-percent responsible for the accident because controllers failed
to give Weidner current weather information. The judge assessed
35-percent of the blame on Weidner himself for failing to consider
other options after executing missed approaches at both his
destination, St. Augustine, and his alternate, Craig Airport in
The NTSB found that the accident was probably caused by pilot
error and spatial disorientation. Lawyers for the FAA contended
Weidner was adversely affected by the over-the-counter cold
medicine he was taking.
Judge Corrigan, however, said that the temporary tower, where
JAX controllers were operating at the time, was improperly set up.
He also ruled that there had been a communications failure forcing
controllers to use their Nextel radios instead of the primary
The FAA refused comment on the ruling.
No damages were awarded at Tuesday's trial. A separate federal
court proceeding will determine whether such damages are
appropriate and if so, how much.