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Lawsuit alleges negligence in Lanai plane crash

Feb. 26 crash killed three people and injured three others
By Andrew Pereira
Published: 5:10 PM HST May 05, 2014

HONOLULU A fiery plane crash on Lanai that killed two Maui County workers and pilot Richard Rooney has resulted in a civil lawsuit by one of the victims’ relatives.

Honolulu attorney Rick Fried filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Heather Shannon, the sister of 50-year-old Kathleen Kern, who was among those killed when a twin-engine airplane went down shortly after takeoff from Lanai City at 9:20 p.m. on Feb. 26.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of Rooney, 66, even though the National Transportation Safety Board is still months away from determining the official cause of the crash. The lawsuit also names both of Rooney’s companies, Maui Island Air Inc. and Maui Aircraft Leasing LLC.

In a news conference Monday, Fried told reporters the lawsuit allows him to pursue possible evidence as well as depositions with survivors and witnesses.

“We will have to sort of take a backseat to the NTSB, but we do have contacts that hopefully can get us in the loop as soon as there’s anything to report,” he said.

Fried hopes to interview Maui County Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux, one of three people who survived the crash. In a statement to Maui police Giroux said the plane made an extreme bank to the right that was hard enough to feel the G-force.

The lawsuit hopes to recover damages for pain and suffering, funeral expenses and future earnings Kern would have received from Maui County. Kern was among a group of five Department of Planning workers who traveled to Lanai City for a community meeting. The workers usually return to Maui by ferry, but were forced to use the chartered flight after the meeting ended late.

Maui Island Air did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment about the lawsuit. Fried said the company has ceased operations since Rooney was the only person certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a “chief pilot.”