Widow of U.S. Forest Service employee who died in plane crash sues aircraft maintainers

By Jon Campisi | Jun 6, 2012

The widow of a U.S. Forest Service employee who died back in June 2010 when the small plane he and two other Department of Agriculture workers were in crashed in north-central Pennsylvania has filed a wrongful death claim against those charged with maintaining the aircraft.

West Virginia attorney John R. Merinar, Jr. filed the civil action May 31 in state court on behalf of Elizabeth C. Snider, who is suing on behalf of her deceased husband, Daniel A. Snider, and the couple’s child, Lee W. Snider.

Daniel Snider was one of three Forest Service employees who died June 21, 2010 when the small plane the government had chartered to conduct an aerial pest detection survey crashed in Lock Haven, Pa.

The aerial accident in the Clinton County municipality also claimed the life of New York State resident Patrick Jessup, who was piloting the craft on that day, according to an Associated Press news report.

The third person to die in the crash was Rodney L. Whiteman, another Forest Service employee, according to the lawsuit.

The day after the accident, the AP reported that the small plane went down as it approached Piper Memorial Airport. The aircraft struck a house and ended up in the street. No one else was injured in the accident.

Last week, plaintiff’s attorney Merinar filed the suit at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The litigation was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorneys Howard M. Klein and P. Connell McNulty, of the firm Conrad O’Brien.

The two represent defendants Continental Motors Inc., Teledyne Technologies Inc. and Technify Motor USA Inc.

Additional defendants named in the complaint are Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. and TDY Industries, as well as New York-based Sterling Airways Inc.

The removal notice filed by the defendants attorneys state that venue is proper in federal court because a diversity of citizenship exists between the various parties.

The plaintiff resides in West Virginia, as did her deceased husband.

According to the complaint, the Cessna airplane departed from Hornell, N.Y. on the date of the accident and flew to the airport at Clarion, Pa. to pick up Snider and Whiteman.

Jessup was piloting the plane at the time.

The three performed aerial survey operations over Pennsylvania before approaching the airport in Lock Haven, Pa. with the intent to land there.

The plane’s engine, however, suffered a “catastrophic in-flight failure,” and the craft crashed just short of Runway 9 at the Pennsylvania airport.

The lawsuit claims that Daniel Snider survived the actual impact, but died in the post-crash fire.

The contract to perform the aerial survey work was issued by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station located in Newtown Square, Pa.

The complaint accuses Sterling Airways of negligently and recklessly failing to maintain the aircraft in a “reasonably safe condition.”

Allegations include the accusation that Sterling failed to calibrate instruments used to check compression during annual inspections and failed to use a bore scope to inspect cylinders and their component parts.

“Sterling’s negligent failure to adequately inspect and maintain [the aircraft] was a proximate cause of the wrongful death of Daniel A. Snider,” the suit states.

The suit claims that as a result of the defendants’ negligence, Elizabeth Snider and her son have suffered “anguish and emotional distress, loss of consortium, funeral expenses, the costs of administering Daniel A. Snider’s Estate, and the loss of household services provided by Daniel A. Snider.”

The suit also says Daniel Snider experienced “tremendous” pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of future income and earning capacity.

The suit accuses TDY and Allegheny of breach of warranty, strict liability, negligence, gross negligence and recklessness.

Those two defendants were in the business of manufacturing and selling aircraft parts and components.

Teledyne Technologies Inc., another defendant, is a successor in interest to defendants TDY and Allegheny.

Continental, another defendant, also engaged in the manufacture and distribution of airplane parts, the suit states.

Technify is a successor in interest to TDY, Allegheny, TTI and Continental.

Elizabeth Snider seeks to recover damages for lost income and earning capacity as a result of her husband’s death. She also seeks damages for pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.


The Common Pleas Court case ID number is 120503753, and the federal case number is 2:12-cv-03054-JCJ.

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