Advertisement
  1. News

Injured Tampa passengers sue estates of pilot, co-pilot who died in jet crash

Marci Wilhelm and Steve Rose of Tampa, injured when this Dassault Falcon 50 ran off the runway of the Greenville Downtown Airport in Greenville, S.C. on Sept 27, have filed a lawsuit against the charter company and the estates of the pilot and co-pilot. [Greenville Police Department]
Marci Wilhelm and Steve Rose of Tampa, injured when this Dassault Falcon 50 ran off the runway of the Greenville Downtown Airport in Greenville, S.C. on Sept 27, have filed a lawsuit against the charter company and the estates of the pilot and co-pilot. [Greenville Police Department]
Published Dec. 10, 2018

TAMPA — A Tampa couple injured in a September private jet crash in Greeneville, S.C., is suing the charter company they hired for the flight and the estates of the pilot and co-pilot, both of whom were killed.

Marci Wilhelm and husband Steven Rose claim Air America Flight Services failed to ensure that pilot John Christian Caswell and co-pilot Stephen George Fox were properly trained and certified to fly a Dassault Falcon 50 that ran off a runway after touching down at Greenville Downtown Airport on Sept. 27.

The jet plunged down a grassy embankment and came to rest on a road, splitting into two pieces behind the cockpit.

The suit filed Nov. 30 in Hillsborough County claims Caswell and Fox were negligent in the operation of the jet, resulting in "severe, permanent injuries" for Wilhelm and Rose. The two were the only passengers on board.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Report confirms Florida pilots not qualified to fly jet that crashed in South Carolina

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa couple identified as survivors of jet crash at South Carolina airport

Fox, who was 66 at the time of the crash and lived in Indian Rocks Beach, owned Air America Flight Services and a sister company named as a defendant in the suit, Account Management Group Inc., or AMG. The suit lists AMG as "formerly known as" Clearwater Aviation, Inc., which is based at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

AMG is apparently still doing business as Clearwater Aviation. Someone who answered a phone number listed for the company on Monday used the name, declined to comment and hung up.

Authorities identified Caswell, 49, of Port St. Lucie, as the pilot, but he had "second-in-command privileges only" for a Dassault Falcon 50 jet, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. That means Caswell could only fly the Falcon 50 as a co-pilot with someone who has a pilot-in-command rating.

Fox did not have a pilot-in-command or second-in-command rating for the Falcon 50, according to the report. Fox was certified only for visual flight and didn't have the rating required to fly an aircraft like the Falcon 50 under instrument flight rules.

The safety board report says the Sept. 27 flight originated from St. Pete-Clearwater International and was a "personal flight" operating under federal regulations governing such trips, and not a charter flight.

Wilhelm and Rose were hospitalized after the crash.

Attorneys listed for the couple were not immediately available for comment Monday.

A public photo posted on Wilhelm's Facebook page Oct. 19 shows her sitting on a hospital bed wearing braces on her leg and torso. Two other public photos posted last month show her scarred legs and face.

"My scars are closing up, the swelling is going down, my arms and core are getting stronger to compensate for the loss of the legs," Wilhelm wrote in a Nov. 16 post.

She wrote that she hopes to run a 10 kilometer race across the Sunshine Skyway in March.

"I've never done 10k before I had bionic legs and a bullet proof back, but I don't want to miss the opportunity to do this race," she wrote.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.