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Two walk away from a twin-engine airplane crash in Montana

On January 3, 2017, a twin-engine aircraft went down between two railroad tracks and the Clark Ford River in the town of Paradise in Sanders County, Montana. The two occupants of the plane, a pilot and a passenger, were able to walk away from the crash but were taken to a local hospital for undisclosed injuries. The cabin and the wings of the plane were intact, but the aircraft is reported to be a total loss.

The NTSB investigation of the crash is ongoing as this post is written, and details of the crash are scant in the media. Therefore the exact cause of the crash has yet to be determined.

The three factors that enter into an accident of this kind are pilot error, equipment failure, and weather. Since the pilot was able to set the plane down such that he or she and the passenger were able to walk away, the account we have of the crash would seem to mitigate against pilot error.

If the cause of the accident is determined to be equipment failure, then the investigation has to determine whether the failure was the result of poor maintenance or a faulty part to find out who might be liable for the crash.

As far as litigation goes, damages to the pilot and passenger may be minimal enough not to make the matter worthwhile. Due to the skill of the pilot and likely some degree of luck, both occupants of the plane lived and probably will make a full recovery. Their health care costs are more than likely covered by insurance.

The loss of the aircraft is another matter. A twin-engine plane represents a big investment, especially if it is owned outright by the pilot. If the crash turns out to be the fault of someone other than the pilot, say a part manufacturer or an airplane maintenance garage, the owner of the aircraft may decide to file a civil action to recover the cost of the wrecked plane.

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