(CN) - The sister of a Panamanian killed on a narcotics surveillance flight in 2013, says in a lawsuit that negligence on the part Honeywell and others led to the disabling of a warning system that would have prevented the plane's crashing into a mountain.
Lt Lloyd Nunez, a member of Panama's National Air and Navy Service, joined the narcotic surveillance flight of the "Prospector" the night of October 4, 2013 as the "host nation rider."
The flight was part of "Operation Martillo," a multinational effort to target illicit drug trafficking in the coastal waters off Central America. The U.S. Southern Command, based in Miami and also referred to as "Southcom," assigned the crew to the flight.
As a host nation rider aboard the Prospector, Nunez played no role in the piloting or navigation of the aircraft, but rather coordinated the night's activities with Panamanian drug interdiction vessels.
In a complaint filed in Miami-Dade County, Nunez's sister, Lily Ann Nunez, says on the night of the crash, the Prospector departed from Hollywood International Airport in Broward County, Fla, and flew to Panama.
Nunez says for most of her brother's flight, the pilot and others were in radio communications with Southcom, but communications abruptly ended during the pre-dawn hours of October 5, 2015, shortly after the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force in Key West began tracking a suspicious vessel in the surveillance area.
"SNC's pilot was at the flight controls when the Prospector crashed into the side of a mountain. On impact, the plane split in two," the complaint says. "A portion of the Prospector's cockpit broke away from the rear section of the plane containing the host-nation riders and the sensor operators. A fire started in rear section of the plane and engulfed the four crewmembers, including ... Lt. Nunez. ... Colombian rescuers determined that the crash was not caused by hostile activity."
Lily Nunez alleges that on October 2, 2013, two days before the ill-fated flight, defendants Sierra Nevada Corp. and New Frontier Innovations might have disconnected the airplane's Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System or EGPWS, manufactured by defendant Honeywell International.
"The EGPWS helps prevent controlled flight into terrain by monitoring the aircraft's position and providing timely warnings to aircrews of upcoming terrain," Nunez says.
Among her assertion, Lily Nunez says that one of the pilots the night of the crash was blind in one eye; and that even though defendants Sierra Nevada and New Frontier Innovations were aware of this situation, they still allowed him to fly with a defective EGPWS risking the lives of all the passengers.
Nunez says that defendants failed to properly maintain, control and monitor the flight. They hired pilots without investigating their background and experience subjecting Lt. Nunez to unreasonable danger.
She seeks unspecified damages on claims of negligence and wrongful death.
Plaintiff is represented by Ricardo Martinez-Cid of Podhurst Orseck, PA, in Miami, Fla.