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Compton Airport plane crash suit filed in L.A. Superior Court

The lawsuit alleges that AAC was negligent in the management, operation, and maintenance of the Compton Airport

Compton Herald | Compton Airport plane crash
Richard Gochie airplane wreckage. Source: NTSB report

Wife of Compton Airport plane crash victim Richard Gochie sues American Airports Corporation; claims in-adequate Crash, Fire and Rescue services led to wrongful death

LOS ANGELES—The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against American Airports Corporation Inc. (AAC) on behalf of a woman whose husband was killed by the fire that ignited after his plane crashed at Compton Airport.

Compton Herald | Richard Gochie

Compton Airport plane crash victim Richard Gochie. Photo: Baum Hedlund


Aviation attorney Timothy A. Loranger filed the lawsuit (case no. BC670969) in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Michelle Gochie, who alleges that her late husband Richard Gochie’s wrongful death was caused by AAC’s negligence in failing to provide adequate Crash, Fire and Rescue (CFR) services that may have saved Gochie’s life.

On Aug. 9, 2015, Gochie was piloting an Aviat A1 (“Husky”) aircraft while attempting to pick up an advertising banner. At about 12:35 p.m. after Gochie successfully snared the banner, but was unable to continue to climb out after releasing the banner. Witnesses say the plane turned nose down before impacting with the ground.

Gochie survived the plane crash, suffering non-life-threatening physical injuries, but remained trapped in the cockpit as a fire ignited. A number of witnesses reportedly ran toward the crash site to offer assistance as the fire began to grow in intensity. Unable to escape and calling out for help, Gochie died from the post-crash fire that eventually engulfed the aircraft.

At the time of the 2015 Compton Airport plane crash, AAC was under contract with L.A. County to operate, manage and maintain Compton Airport, which includes the obligation to have rescue and firefighting equipment and trained personnel available to provide CFR services as needed by persons flying into or out of Compton Airport.

The lawsuit alleges that AAC was negligent in the management, operation, and maintenance of the Compton Airport when, among other things, they failed to have working and operational CFR vehicles and trained personnel on site to operate those vehicles and to provide CFR services to Gochie at the time of the crash. According to the complaint, AAC’s failure to maintain and repair CFR vehicles and equipment rendered them unusable.

The suit also alleges that resulting from the negligence, “AAC failed to prevent or extinguish the resultant fire, take appropriate and necessary action to extricate Gochie from the wreckage, protect him from the resultant fire, and to render first aid to Gochie, who suffered survivable physical injuries from the crash.”

According to the lawsuit, AAC had reason to know or knew their employees and/or agents would not be able to render necessary, appropriate, and required assistance, and that their CFR vehicles and equipment were not in working order, rendering them ineffective in the event of an emergency.

Further, per the complaint., “AAC knew or should have known that its personnel were incompetent and/or unfit, and likely to cause harm to others in the performance of the work entrusted to them.”

The lawsuit goes on to allege, “AAC’s negligence created a dangerous condition at Compton Airport, which was open and available to the public, according to the complaint. The dangerous condition was created wholly or in substantial part by AAC’s negligent, wrongful acts, by their failure to properly train, instruct, supervise, and manage their employees to provide aid and assistance in the event of a crash such as that described herein and their failure to maintain, repair and have CFR vehicles and equipment available and in working and serviceable condition for use at the time of the crash.”

According to Timothy A. Loranger, attorney for Michelle Gochie, “Witnesses describe that AAC’s employee literally stood by and watched as Richard Gochie called for help, failing to give any assistance as required in this type of life threatening emergency.  The decision by AAC’s employee not to help Mr. Gochie, coupled with the later discovery that the available life-saving equipment may not have been operational, is mind-boggling.

“As a result of AAC’s willful, wanton, and malicious disregard for human life, Mrs. Gochie lost her loving husband and lifelong companion,” Loranger said.

Baum Hedlund previously handled a Compton plane crash in 2008 and 2009, when they represented three people who were injured when a Cessna lost power and crashed into their home.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton and the Los Angeles metropolitan area of California, and the world.

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