Posted on Apr 01, 2006
Jury awards $25 million to kin of pilot killed in crash
A company operating airplane control towers must pay $25 million to the family of a pilot who fatally crashed after controllers failed to warn him about another plane.
BY AMY SHERMAN
A Broward jury has awarded $25 million to the family of a pilot killed in a 2003 plane crash.
Steve Ross, 46, of Boca Raton, crashed into another plane over Deerfield Beach. All five people aboard both airplanes died. Ross was returning home from a missionary trip in the Bahamas.
The air-traffic controllers, at the control towers operated by Robinson Aviation at the Pompano Beach and Boca Raton airports, failed to inform the pilots that they were approaching each other, according to attorneys for the Ross family.
'Because it was growing dark, neither pilot could see the other,' said Steven C. Marks of Podhurst Orseck, lead attorney for the Ross family in a prepared statement.
The controllers never checked their radar screens, said Ricardo Martinez-Cid, an attorney who worked with Marks.
Attorneys for Robinson Aviation could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
After an 8-day trial, on Wednesday the jury awarded a $25.2 million verdict: $11.2 million to Ross' widow, Julie, and $3.5 million to each of their four children.
Robinson Aviation will also have to pay the family's attorneys fees, Martinez-Cid said.
The crash involving two single-engine planes occurred around 7:45 p.m. on June 17, 2003, when Ross' Cessna 182 traveling north collided with a southbound Cessna 172 flown by Johnny Mark Willey of Margate.
The planes then crashed into the water. Douglas Bauer, 48, of Boca Raton was also on Ross' plane. Willey, 39, was flying with his wife Susan, 43, and his daughter Shelbi, 12.
The Ross family was pleased that the jury recognized Ross did nothing wrong, Martinez-Cid said.
'It was very comforting to them to have the jury recognize that, their dad was such a careful pilot. . . . . ,' he said. ``He was on the way home to be with his family the day before his youngest daughter's birthday.'
Julie Ross wants to use the money from the verdict to fund her missionary work, Martinez-Cid said.