110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Lawsuit alleges pilot didn't have needed training
By Pat Andrews
posted Jul 18, 2012 - 7:48:48pm
Publix has filed suit against the estate of the pilot and owner of the experimental aircraft that crashed into DeLand’s Northgate Publix April 2, alleging “millions of dollars” worth of damages. The suit does not specify the amount of money Publix is seeking.
Publix would not talk about the suit.
“We have a practice and policy of not commenting on pending litigation,” corporate spokesman Dwaine Stevens said.
The suit was filed against the estate of Kim Presbrey, a private pilot who purchased the Seawind 3000 amphibious experimental aircraft in January. Presbrey, 60, died May 26 from burns and other injuries sustained in the April 2 crash. The lawsuit also named Thomas Rhoades, a commercial pilot and a friend of Presbrey’s who was also in the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not said who was flying the small aircraft when it crashed into the Publix roof.
The suit states the crash caused more than $1 million in damages. The lawsuit also charges Presbrey did not have the training or experience to operate the 2002 kit-built plane, and that Presbrey and Rhoades failed to properly inspect the plane. When Presbrey purchased the plane in January, it had been unused for three years.
The NTSB is expected to complete its investigation of the crash in six months or so.
Presbrey and Rhoades were flying from Aurora, Ill., their home base, to Altamonte Springs for seaplane training April 1, when the plane’s transponder malfunctioned, and they stopped at the DeLand Municipal Airport to get it replaced.
Around 7:15 p.m. April 2, the plane departed from Runway 23 at the DeLand airport, about a mile from the Publix store.
Witnesses said the plane began its takeoff climb, then sputtered, rolled to the left, and crashed, nose-down, into the roof of the Publix, creating a 20-foot-long fireball. Three customers in the store were injured; two of them were released from the hospital that evening. No employees were injured.
The store, newly renovated, reopened June 28.
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