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samedi 4 mars 2006

Attorneys for families of passengers have said they will file suit against Chalk's Airlines for the fatal crash Dec. 19 off the coast of Miami, but now a law firm has said it has filed a $100 million suit against the company on behalf of the family of the aircraft's pilot.

Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Motley Rice said its suit is against Flying Boats, which operates under the name Chalk's Airlines, and its owner James Confalone, among other Confalone-owned entities. The firm said its suit is on behalf of the family of Michele Marks, pilot in the fatal crash of Chalk's Airlines Flight 101.

Shortly after the 58-year-old twin-engine Grumman G-73T seaplane took off from Chalk's Watson Island seaplane base, the law firm said, the right wing fell off and the plane crashed into Government Cut, the federal waterway at the entry to the Port of Miami. The firm said the plane was made in 1947, and was en route from Miami to the Bahamian island of Bimini.

The law firm said a post-crash investigation revealed the right wing separated near where the wing connected to the fuselage. The firm also said the investigation reported visible evidence of fatigue cracking and corrosion on the wing spar.

Motley Rice said its investigators also discovered that, in 1991, the plane was found to have light corrosion on the right wing.

"Despite the discovery of corrosion on the wing spar 15 years ago, it is alleged that the aircraft was not properly inspected, maintained, repaired, overhauled or removed from service and replaced with more airworthy aircraft," the firm said.

Motley Rice attorney and former U.S. inspector general for the Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo said Chalk's Airlines had a duty to its employees and its passengers to undertake the highest degree of care to keep its planes airworthy and safe.

"Clearly, they fell short of this duty," she added. "When you're operating a 58-year-old aircraft, it is imperative that a rigorous aging aircraft inspection and maintenance program is followed. Old airplanes are such a risk that the aviation industry even has a term for them - 'tired iron.' This tired iron should have been retired."

The law firm said it filed its case in circuit court in Miami-Dade County.

A woman who answered the phone at Chalk's Fort Lauderdale office said she couldn't comment on the suit and didn't even know if Chalk's had been served with it. The woman would not give her name, citing a policy not to talk to the media.

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