Pilot Who Fled 1982 Crash Pays $35,500
A Montana judge has ordered a Canadian pilot, whose ditching of an aircraft in 1982 led to the death of his girlfriend, to cover the cost of repairs to the Cessna 150 and to pay the funeral costs for Diane Babcock. Jaroslaw “Jerry” Ambrozuk was also fined $1,000 under a plea arrangement that was revised by Flathead District Court Judge Stewart Stadler last Thursday. According to the Kalispell Daily Inter Lake, Ambrozuk pleaded guilty to one count of felony criminal endangerment and one count of felony criminal mischief in May for the bizarre elopement scheme in which he, then 19, and Babcock, 18, rented the plane in Penticton, British Columbia, and then deliberately put it in Bitterroot Lake, near Kalispell, Mont. They planned to run away together, but Babcock for reasons that are not clear was unable to escape the sinking aircraft. Ambrozuk fled, didn’t report the accident and eventually took up residence in Plano, Texas, where he led a comfortable life as a software engineer under an assumed identity. One of his neighbors recognized him when the story was told on America’s Most Wanted. Shortly after the ditching, police in Canada recorded a phone call in which Ambrozuk told a friend that Babcock’s seatbelt had jammed, but it was working properly when searchers recovered the plane, with Babcock’s body still inside, from 220 feet of water. In his ruling, Judge Stadler ordered Ambrozuk to pay $19,500 to the aircraft owner, $5,000 to Babcock’s family for funeral expenses and $10,000 in court and prosecution costs, in addition to the $1,000 fine. Ambrozuk’s legal issues are far from over, however. Next week, he’ll plead guilty to falsifying his U.S. passport, which is a felony.