The parents of a 28-year-old woman killed in a Santa Monica airplane crash last year have filed a lawsuit against the pilot’s estate and several others, alleging negligence in the design and handling of the airplane as well as the air strip on which the airplane attempted to land.
Lauren Winkler died when the Cesna 525A Citation airplane piloted by her boyfriend’s father crashed on the evening of Sept. 29, 2013, at Santa Monica Airport. The other three occupants of the plane were also killed; they were identified as: Mark Benjamin, 63, the pilot; his girlfriend Kyla DuPoint, 53; and his son Lucas Benjamin, 28.
The airplane had returned to Santa Monica from Hailey, Idaho. It veered right upon landing and struck a hangar near the runway, bursting into flames and causing the hangar to collapse on top of the aircraft.
Ms. Winkler’s parents, Gary and Carole Winkler, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. In addition to suing the heirs of Mr. Benjamin, who was the president of a Santa Monica-based construction company, the Winklers also named Cessna Aircraft Corp., the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, and Santa Monica County as defendants in their suit.
The Winklers allege that several factors together caused the plane to crash. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Benjamin was “physically, mentally and emotionally unfit to operate” the airplane, which he landed in a “dangerous, unsafe and reckless manner.”
The Winklers also allege that the airplane had mechanical problems that could have caused Mr. Winkler to lose control, including potential trouble with the braking system, landing gear, and thrust attenuators.
Moreover, the Winklers say that the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica and Santa Monica County are jointly responsible for a runway in dangerous condition. They allege that there were rocks and other debris on the runway and that Mr. Benjamin couldn’t regain control of the plane due to the air strip’s inadequate space. They also say the hangar that the plane struck was built dangerously close to the runway.
The City of Santa Monica is also suing Mr. Benjamin’s estate seeking to recoup about $54,000 in expenses incurred cleaning up after the crash.