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Pilot Details Deadly Plane Crash Ahead of Closings in Trial Against Milliken

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Aug 17, 2018 9:12:58 AM

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Stock photo. 


Update: Jurors cleared Milliken & Company of fault in the first wrongful death case to go to trial over a 2013 plane crash that killed five. Click here for more details on closings and the verdict. 


Atlanta—Closing arguments are expected Friday in the first wrongful death trial against Milliken & Company over a plane crash that killed five people, a day after the pilot involved in the crash wrapped testimony in the case. McCorkle, et al. v. Milliken & Company, 15EV000163.

Heidi McCorkle, 28, and four others died in a February 2013 crash after the small jet in which they were traveling struck a concrete utility pole after an aborted landing at Georgia's Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport.

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The pole stood on Milliken land that was part of an aviation easement the company granted more than 20 years before the pole was placed. McCorkle’s family claims Milliken is to blame for knowingly allowing Georgia Power to place the pole in an area restricted by the easement, as part of additional utility services the company requested. 

Closings follow 8 days of testimony in the case, concluding with the videotaped deposition of Rick Trammel, the pilot involved in the crash.

Milliken attorneys, who maintain pilot error caused the accident, walked Trammel through the events leading up to the collision. Trammel testified that he could not remember various events surrounding the crash. However, he acknowledged an NTSB accident report quoting him as describing the travel day as a “tough, tough day” because he had awakened earlier than normal for the flight. He also acknowledged he knew of utility poles near the airport and said he failed to follow checklist protocol when his aircraft’s “anti-skid fail” light illuminated in flight.  

If he had followed the protocol, he acknowledged, he wouldn’t have attempted to land at the airport, and the crash “would not have occurred at Thomson,” Trammel said.

However, under questioning from plaintiffs’ attorneys, Trammel noted that, in spite of failing to follow checklist items and other criticisms of his approach into Thomson, he successfully brought the plane back into the air after an apparent brake failure forced him to abort the landing.

And he said, ultimately, it was the pole that clipped the wing off the jet, leading to the crash. If the pole had not been in protected airspace, he said, “I do not believe that accident would have happened.”

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com.

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Topics: McCorkle v. Milliken & Company, Georgia, Premises Liability