A bizarre mishap led to a death in South Carolina when a small plane making an emergency landing killed a jogger on the beach. Robert Gary Jones, 38, was jogging and listening on his iPod when he was hit from behind. Edward I. Smith says that he had lost the propeller of his airplane and was blinded by oil on the windshield at the time of the landing.
Smith was flying an Experimental Lancair IV-P but would not discuss the accident, stating “I’ve got a lot of issues going on right now. I’ve got a plane that’s all torn up. And I’ve got a young man that I killed.” Just for the record, it may be better in the future to start with the dead man and then raise the busted up aircraft in terms of prioritization.
Smith had a passenger on board. The plane started leaking oil when it reached 13,000 feet.
In terms of possible litigation, one complication is that the waves washed away skid marks from the accident. It will be interesting if Smith put this plane together and what relevance the “experimental” classification has. Planes have long been treated as an “ultrahazardous activity” or “abnormally dangerous” activity allowing courts to apply strict liability rather than negligence. While this status has changed in some states, experimental aircraft might still qualify. Even under a negligence standard, Smith might be in trouble. The emergency landing can be defended on the basis of private necessity but the cause of the breakdown may prove more difficult for him.
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