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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Father Blames Piper for Fatal Air Crash

WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - A father claims airplane manufacturers knew of the defects that made a Piper Seminole burn to death everyone on board, including his daughter, though they survived the initial crash.

Everyone survived the crash, but died in the fire caused by the aircraft's poorly designed fuel lines, David Frembling claims in Palm Beach County Court.

Frembling, adoptive father of the late Dheni Teresa Frembling, sued Piper Aircraft, Lycoming Engines, Avco Corp., Textron, Avstar Fuel Systems, and Dukes Aerospace, for negligence and strict liability.

Frembling's 26-year-old daughter died on a Piper Seminole four-passenger plane with another pilot and two students from the Florida Institute of Technology in November 2010

"This flight was for non-primary training, and both plaintiff's decedent, a certified flight instructor, and the pilot were fully certified to fly the accident aircraft," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff's decedent flew into Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI) from the Bahamas to go through Customs, purchase some fuel, and intended to return to the base airport in Melbourne, Florida.

"After receiving takeoff clearance, and shortly after takeoff from Runway lOR, the plaintiff's decedent radioed the tower, stating that they had lost one of their engines."

Frembling says the controller cleared them to land, and the plane crashed on the runway.

"Immediately after the impact, the aircraft burst into flames, as the fuel streamed from the outboard tanks to the lower point of the fuel lines, the cabin," the complaint states.

"The four occupants of the aircraft, not killed immediately upon impact, were severely burned, one of whom was removed from the wreckage and taken to the hospital, where he died shortly thereafter, after suffering from severe bums and smoke inhalation."

The poorly designed fuel lines are not the plane's only flaw, Frembling says.

"In addition to the fuel delivery and metering system defects, Piper chose to use stainless steel mufflers in the Seminole, despite knowledge that such material was brittle, and when such fracture occurred, guaranteed imminent engine failure which was especially egregious because Piper and Lycoming both were involved in FAA sponsored studies in the early 1960's which concluded that stainless steel was unsuitable as a material for aircraft mufflers.

"Piper also did not design the accident aircraft with a crashworthy sear, occupant restraint system, or any crashworthy frame.

"In fact, the Seminole's design virtually guaranteed severe injury, death or incapacitation in the event of a crash or hard landing.

"In addition, the seats, seat belts, occupant restraint system, frames, and airframe structure were improperly designed in that the design do not absorb or attenuate any forces during a hard landing or survivable crash.

"Piper's design also incorporated fuel lines which were routed and mounted in the airframe in such a way they would rupture and break and dump fuel near the occupants of the aircraft, virtually guaranteeing a post-crash fire and an almost sure risk of severe bums to the occupants in nearly every crash scenario," according to the complaint.

Frembling seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

He is represented by Mariano Garcia, with Searcy Donney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley.

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