Husband of flight attendant killed in Lewis Katz plane crash sues

By Jim Boyle | Aug 28, 2014

The husband of the flight attendant who was killed in the same place crash that claimed the

life of Philadelphia businessman Lewis Katz has requested to join the liability suit filed by the families of Katz's friends, who were also on the plane.

Daniel Benhoff, of Easton, Md., has requested to intervene as executor for his wife, Teresa Anne Benhoff, as a plaintiff in a civil suit filed in July in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by the estates of Anne Leeds and Marcella Dalsey, two family friends of Katz that he invited to accompany him to a party held by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on May 31.

Katz and his guests boarded his private Gulfstream IV jet at Hanscom Filed in Bedford, Mass., and prepared to return home, but the plane never left the runway. The jet could not take off and crashed at the end of the airstrip, killing everyone on board, including Benhoff and the two pilots, James McDowell and Bauke DeVries.

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing the investigation, with the final report not expected until next spring, but the plaintiffs hold the seller and manufacturers of the airplane parts liable for the deaths, naming SK Travel, Gulfstream, Honeywell International and Parker Hannifin as defendants.

According to the complaint, a malfunction in the elevator flaps prevented them from activating, leaving the plane unable to gain altitude while it accelerated to take-off speed. It careened off the runway and crashed into antenna towers, compromising the fuel tank and exploding.

The suit says a similar, non-fatal event occurred in Florida in 2006, and other Gulfstream aircraft have displayed the same problems. According to the suit, Katz's plane had been submitted to Gulfstream for annual inspections, which cleared the aircraft for flight.

The complaint holds Parker Hannifin liable as manufacturers of the hydraulic elevator actuator, saying that the design flaws in the dual-pistoned system have been well-known in the industry. According to the suit, the system uses hydraulic power from the engine to power the two pistons that operate the elevator flaps. The problem with the design, the suit says, is that one component failure can cause complete loss of control of the elevator system.

Honeywell designed the plane's flight control system, including the cockpit displays, the suit says. According to the court documents, none of the warning lights had any information on the status of the elevator flaps and did not alert the pilots to the cause of the malfunction in time to prevent the crash.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jennifer Horn of Cohen Seglia Pallas Greenhall & Furman, P.C.

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