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Pilot’s widow sues airport

OW Staff Writer | 8/10/2017, midnight

The widow of a pilot killed when a small, banner-towing plane crashed during takeoff from the Compton airport in 2015 is suing the airport’s managers, alleging the emergency personnel present that day were insufficiently trained to prevent her husband from burning to death.

Richard Gene Gochie, 48, of Redmond, Ore., died on Aug. 9, 2015, from multiple traumatic injuries, according to a copy of his death certificate attached to the lawsuit that Michelle Denise Gochie’s filed Friday against American Airports Corp. Inc. in Los Angeles Superior Court.

An American Airports representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit, which alleges wrongful death, negligence and premises liability and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The crash occurred as the single-engine Aviat Husky A-1 was picking up a banner at Compton/Woodley Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

According to the lawsuit, Gochie survived the crash, but died from the fire that engulfed the aircraft. The airport’s emergency vehicles were not fully operational and the emergency employees present did not provide immediate aid, the suit alleges.

“As a result of defendants’ willful, wanton and malicious disregard for human life, Richard Gochie was killed,” the suit states.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that witnesses saw Gochie pick up a tow banner successfully on his sixth attempt. Gochie then reported by radio that he was unable to climb and the banner fell to the ground, the NTSB report said.

The airplane spun to the left and headed downward and combusted, according to the report.