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Families of plane crash victims sue pilot’s estate

Families of plane crash victims sue pilot’s estate

Originally Published: State Journal-Register, The (Springfield, IL) – Friday, November 7, 2008


The families of two men who died in a plane crash west of Springfield last December have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the estate of the pilot, who also was killed in the crash.

Attorneys for the families of Richard Hohimer and John Crabtree filed the suit on Oct. 8 against the estate of Rayford Wright, accusing him of failing to properly control the plane.

The families are seeking damages for their loss and grief, as well as specific amounts to cover funeral costs for Hohimer and Crabtree.

The crash happened about 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2007, in a field off Old Route 54 west of Springfield. Wright, 71, was approaching Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in his Beechcraft BE35 “Bonanza” for a landing, but the weather was foggy. A few miles from the runway, Wright “became disoriented and was unable to ascertain the (plane’s) position with respect to the ground,” the lawsuit says.

Wright, a longtime private pilot who lived in Rochester, had been cleared to approach the airport and was supposed to be getting in position for a landing, using a signal from a navigational radio on the ground, according to the National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

Instead of aligning himself with the runway, however, radar records show that Wright’s plane veered across the localizer centerline, then turned sharply to the right, back toward the runway. At the same time, the plane descended from about 3,000 feet to 1,300 feet.

Then the plane went into a steep climb to 2,700 feet before plummeting to earth in a muddy field nearly nine miles southwest of the airport. The impact was so severe the nose of the plane was buried in the field. Authorities had to use a military vehicle to remove the wreckage.

All three victims had ties to Springfield’s Calvary Temple Christian Center. Wright, a member of the center, also was president of the board of Contact Ministries. Hohimer, 55, had been a pastor, and Crabtree, 57, head of New Creation Ministry, had been involved with Calvary over the past 20 years. The men were returning from a trip to Cincinnati.

Fred Nessler, attorney for the Crabtree and Hohimer estates, said Thursday that filing such a suit is not unheard of under the circumstances.

“Normally in aviation cases, it’s more likely that a lawsuit would be filed to attempt to bring the case to conclusion. That’s probably more likely in an aviation case than in an automobile accident,” he said. “We’re still investigating whether there would be any controller error or products-liability issues, but we haven’t determined that yet.”

The Hohimer estate is seeking $9,418.18 for the cost of his funeral, and the Crabtree estate is seeking $11,410.93 for the cost of his funeral.

The suit indicates the administrator of Crabtree‘s estate is his widow, Linda Crabtree. He has a daughter, Chantelle Grabb, and a son, Travis Crabtree. Hohimer’s estate is administered by his widow, Sheila Hohimer. He has two daughters, Erica Hohimer and April Jones.

Jayette Bolinski can be reached at 788-1530.

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