Share This Page

Families in fatal plane crash to get key report

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 6:06 p.m.

BUFFALO — Lawyers for families suing over the deadly 2009 crash of a plane into a house near Buffalo have won access to an internal safety report that the flight's operators had fought to keep private.

They can also interview a retired Federal Aviation Administration inspector who, before the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407, was critical of Colgan Air Inc., the now-defunct regional carrier that operated the Newark, N.J.-to-Buffalo flight for Continental Airlines.

A federal judge issued the decisions last week in advance of a March 2014 trial in the case of wrongful death claims filed by passengers' families against Continental, Colgan, its parent, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. and the plane's maker, Bombardier Inc.

Colgan and Pinnacle had argued against both disclosures.

“The significance, I don't think can be overstated,” Hugh Russ III, a lawyer representing several families, said Tuesday.

The commuter flight stalled and crashed into a house on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Feb. 12, 2009, in an accident investigators blamed on pilot error. All 49 people on board and a man in the house died.

Less than a month after the crash, Colgan Air commissioned the firm of Nick Sabatini & Associates for an internal safety review during which Sabatini interviewed mechanics, pilots and other employees and observed training classes and flights.

Colgan executives said the findings were privileged and intended for internal use only — and withheld them from the National Transportation Safety Board.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.