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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames ‘Negligent Piloting’ for Outer Banks Plane Crash in North Carolina that Left 8 Dead

The Outer Banks

Weeds blow in the wind on the beach in Kill Devil Hills of North Carolina’s Outer Banks

A lawsuit has been filed by the family members of four people who died in a February plane crash off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The coastline crash killed eight people, including four teenagers who were heading home from a hunting trip. Two adults who traveled with the teenagers also died, as did the pilot and his adult son, who was a pilot in training, according to the Associated Press.

Families of three of the deceased teens and one of the deceased adults are suing EDP Management Group LLC and Green Assets, both of which are based in Wilmington, N.C., as well as Dillon’s Aviation, which is based in Greenville, N.C. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 in Carteret County Court.

The plane, a single-engine Pilatus PC-12/47, took off on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 from Hyde County airport at 1:35 p.m. heading towards Beaufort, N.C., along the southern edge of the Outer Banks. The aircraft was last seen near its destination around 2:01 p.m. that day.

On Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed on Twitter that the plane had crashed. That same day, Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck held a press conference to note that one body had been found and there was “no indication that anyone survived.”

Crews worked for days to recover multiple fields of debris as they searched for human remains and a clue as to what caused the crash.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges pilot Ernest “Teen” Durwood Rawls failed to fly the plane safely, failed to maintain control, flew into low-visibility conditions, failed to properly avoid restricted airspace “leading to an erratic and irregular flight path,” and failed to properly evaluate the plane’s weight and balance before take off.

“Rawls’ negligent piloting led to his subsequent spatial disorientation,” the lawsuit alleges, adding: “Rawls failed to properly and safely operate the aircraft, resulting in a crash.”

The lawsuit was filed by the families of Noah Styron, 15; Michael Shepherd, 15; Jacob Taylor, 16; and Stephanie Fulcher, 42

The lawsuit lays out the plaintiffs’ allegations in detail:

At approximately 1:38 p.m., the air traffic controller advised the pilot of the subject aircraft that nearby restricted airspace was active. The pilot confirmed that the aircraft would remain clear of the restricted airspace.

At approximately 1:41 p.m., the controller called the pilot and indicated that the airplane was about to enter the restricted airspace. After multiple calls with no response from the pilot, the controller instructed the military aircraft in the restricted airspace to remain above 4,000 ft msl.

At approximately 1:49 p.m., the pilot called the controller and requested RNAV approach to MFH, but was denied the request because of the active restricted airspace. The controller also queried the pilot as to why he did not respond to the earlier radio calls, to which the pilot responded that he “was trying to get out” and was unable to receive the radio transmissions.

At approximately 2:01 p.m., the controller called the airplane and asked what altitude it was at because the airplane was at 4,700 ft msl and climbing quickly. There was no response. Radar contact was lost with the airplane at 2:02 p.m. Throughout the communication with air traffic control, there were no distress calls or a declaration of emergency from the airplane.

Minutes later, the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Drum Inlet and the Cape Lookout seashore.

“Our clients have endured every family’s worst nightmare, and they want answers and accountability,” attorney Andrew C. Robb of Robb & Robb LLC, said in a statement provided to Law&Crime. “This crash was entirely preventable. It is these families’ utmost desire to find out precisely how this tragedy occurred so that they can prevent others from having to endure what they are suffering.”

The filing operates on a theory of vicarious liability for the three named defendant business entities because the pilot was under their employ at the time of the fatal crash.

“We do not have a comment at this time,” a representative for Green Assets told Law&Crime.

“We have been advised by legal counsel not to make a comment,” a representative for Dillon’s Aviation told Law&Crime, “So, we’re not going to make a comment at this time.”

EDP Management is an LLC that shares its headquarters and principal place of business with Green Assets. Hunter Parks, one of the people who died in the plane crash, was the founder and chairman of Green Assets. He is also listed as one of two principals of EDP Management in corporate filings.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and various damages in excess of $25,000.

Read the full filing below:

[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images]

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