In a bizarre incident that occurred in a suburban Seattle, Washington neighborhood last Friday, a large chunk of sheet metal about the size of a “refrigerator” fell from the sky into a high traffic street. Luckily no one was injured in the incident however such an event could have had catastrophic consequences had it occurred just an hour later. The object fell from the sky around 7:00 a.m. into a residential neighborhood in Kent and “skipped about 30 feet” before it stopped on the street, according to reports.
In a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration, investigators were on the scene shortly after reports of the incident were received. The FAA said the object was a landing gear door from a Boeing 767 airplane. Just prior to the object crashing down into the street, witnesses said a cargo-type jet was flying lower than usual and sounded like it could have been in distress. The object landed in a street that sees many pedestrians, including kids walking to and from school so it is miraculous that no one was injured in the accident.
Apparently this is not the first nor will likely be the last time parts from an airplane have fallen from the sky, according to a retired Commander with the U.S. Marines and a current consultant to ABC News. As planes age and become more and more distressed pieces will break off during flight. He said it was likely this incidence involved a plane preparing to land in Seattle and the force of air caused the already weakened landing gear door to tear off and plunge from the sky.
Earlier this year, small pieces from an Air Canada jet, a Boeing 777 scattered onto cars in the Toronto area. Just days before that incident last May, a small plane’s door fell from the sky and landed smack in the middle of a fairway on a Miami, Florida, golf course. In 2009, a number of cars and houses were damaged when parts, some weighing almost 550 pounds, tumbled from a cargo freighter in Brazil. Incidents such as these have the ability to not only cause major property damage but serious bodily injury as well.
Airlines have a strict liability to maintain aircraft in proper working order and to keep the general public safe from harm. Not only could there be a catastrophe on the ground from pieces of a plane in flight falling off the aircraft, but the missing parts could conceivably cause the plane to crash, injuring or killing passengers and crew, as well as innocent persons on the ground. Numerous personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been instigated over similar catastrophes in the past and will no doubt continue into the future.
Source: ABC News, “Refrigerator-Size Plane Door Crashes Into Washington Neighborhood,” John Schriffin, Sept. 9, 2012
Our law firm handles a wide range of personal injury and wrongful death claims that result from plane crashes and related incidents similar to what we discussed in the above post.