Jury Awards $10.5 Million For Fatal Airshow Crash

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The family of a man who died after crashing at the Arlington (Wash.) Fly-in in 1999 was awarded $10.5 million this week by a jury that found EAA and the Northwest EAA didn't provide adequate fire and emergency response services, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on Wednesday. Don Corbitt crashed while attempting to take off in his homebuilt RV-6. According to the plaintiffs' lawyers, Corbitt survived the crash but died in a post-crash fire, and rescuers on the field took more than five minutes to respond. According to the NTSB, the limited capacity of the portable fire extinguishers proved insufficient to put out the fire, and because the pilot's leg was jammed in the wreckage, witnesses were unable to pull him free before the heat of the fire became to intense to continue attempts to rescue him. Within a minute after the aircraft impacted the ground, the volunteer fire truck arrived at the scene and within a minute to a minute and a half after their arrival, the fire was extinguished, the Board said. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb on Wednesday that "EAA's position on the accident and related matters differ from the plaintiff's position. Although a jury verdict has been rendered, there are still post-trial proceedings that further address and could materially affect the jury decision. As the case is still active in the courts, it would be premature to comment further at this time." The NTSB found the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot's excessive climb rate, which led to his failure to maintain an airspeed above stalling speed (Vs). Factors include the pilot's lack of total experience in the aircraft make and model." The pilot had earned his private pilot certificate less than a year before the accident and owned the aircraft for less than two weeks, the NTSB said.