A day after the Aspen accident, Baum Hedlund senior partner and aviation attorney Paul Hedlund described the many dangerous factors in trying to land an airplane near mountainous terrain to Extra. The FAA has reported 25 “safety incidents” since 1987 at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which is located 7,800 feet above sea level and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Fifteen passengers and three crew members were killed. Baum Hedlund represented one family from the March 2001 Avjet Gulfstream crash and served on the legal team that brought three cases to trial in Los Angeles in 2003.
The Gulfstream III, operated by Burbank-based charter jet company, Avjet Corp., and owned by Airborne Charter Inc., which is owned by Cinergi Pictures, was carrying 15 passengers from Los Angeles to Aspen, Colorado for a birthday party when it crashed about 2,400 feet short of the runway. Light snow was falling as the pilot attempted to land at dusk in one of the most difficult airports in the nation due to its mountainous terrain. Two planes ahead of the Gulfstream had aborted their approach because visibility was bad.
Baum Hedlund filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Witham family for the wrongful death of Marissa Witham who worked for FOX affiliate KTTV-TV in Los Angeles, alleging that the defendants knowingly flew into the face of danger when they attempted to land under unsafe, stormy weather conditions at Aspen Airport. Not only did they violate the airport’s night landing curfew, but they also disregarded more than ten federal, state, and local regulations. The case went to trial in 2003 and the jury awarded $8.5 million to the Withams. During the punitive phase of the trial, Avjet Corp. reached a $9.5 million settlement with the parents of Marissa Witham.
Air Date: 3-30-2001
Incident Date 3-29-2001