Wrongful Death At Fly-In Ruling Overturned

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A wrongful death suit that originally levied a $10.5 million judgment against the EAA and the Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association (NWEAA) has seen a reversal judgment in a Washington court of appeals. The court found that Don Corbitt was alive in the wreckage of his RV-6A after it crashed shortly after departure at the Northwest Fly-In at Arlington, Wash., on July 7, 1999, but that Corbitt died in the post-crash fire as bystanders attempted to extinguish the flames. The court found that the fire was ultimately extinguished by an Arlington Fire Department truck that arrived on the scene within three to five minutes of the crash. One concern of the lawsuit involved the assignment of responsibility for fire safety at the location of the accident. A common law duty had in a previous judgment been assigned to NWEAA and EAA, along with the multimillion judgment against them. Records from the appeals case now indicate that the fire was ultimately extinguished on property not included in usage areas identified by special use agreements. The court of appeals found that neither NWEAA or EAA controlled the portion of the airport where Corbitt crashed, they were not in control of fire or fire aid personnel and had no duty to provide first aid services to Corbitt "once he had left premises possessed by NWEAA."