Lawsuit Claims Negligence Caused Pilot’s Death in Compton Airport Crash

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The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed a lawsuit last Friday against American Airports Corporation Inc. (AAC) over the wrongful death of pilot Richard Gochie, who was killed in a fire that erupted after his plane crashed at Compton Airport in Compton, California.

Baum Hedlund aviation attorney Timothy A. Loranger filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court (case no. BC670969) on behalf of Michelle Gochie, the widow of deceased pilot, Richard Gochie. The lawsuit alleges Richard Gochie's death was caused by AAC's negligence in failing to provide Crash, Fire and Rescue (CFR) services that could have saved his life.

Banner Plane Pilot Burned Alive After Compton Airport Crash

On August 9, 2015, Richard Gochie was flying an Aviat A1 ("Husky") plane while attempting to pick up an advertising banner. At approximately 12:35 p.m., Mr. Gochie successfully snared the banner but was unable to gain altitude, even after he released the banner. The small plane turned nose down and impacted with the ground.

Richard GochieMr. Gochie, who sustained non-life-threatening physical injuries in the crash, remained helplessly trapped in the cockpit as a fire ignited. A number of witnesses ran toward the wreckage to offer assistance as the fire began to spread to throughout the aircraft. Unable to extricate himself as he called out for help, Richard Gochie died in the post-crash fire.

At the time of the Compton Airport crash, AAC was under contract with Los Angeles County to operate, manage and maintain the airport. The terms of the contract required AAC to have rescue and firefighting equipment, as well as trained personnel available to provide CFR services as needed by those flying into or out of the airport.

According to the complaint, AAC was negligent in its management, operation and maintenance of Compton Airport when, among other things, the company failed to have working and operational CFR vehicles with trained personnel on site to operate the CFR vehicles, both of which prevented AAC from providing CFR services to Mr. Gochie in his time of great need.

As a result of this negligence, the lawsuit alleges AAC failed to:

  • Prevent or extinguish the post-crash fire that erupted after Mr. Gochie's plane went down.
  • Take appropriate and necessary action to extricate Mr. Gochie from the wreckage.
  • Protect him from the resultant fire.
  • Render first aid to Mr. Gochie, whose injuries from the crash were considered survivable.

American Airports Corporation Failed to Provide Rescue Services, Per Complaint

AAC allegedly knew or had reason to know that company employees or agents would not be able to render CFR services in the event of an emergency and that their CFR vehicles and equipment were not in working order, rendering them ineffective. Likewise, AAC knew or should have known that its personnel were unfit, incompetent and likely to cause harm in the performance of the work entrusted to them in the event of an emergency, according to the complaint.

Through its negligence, AAC is accused of creating a dangerous condition that led to the airport crash, which was open and available to the public at the time of the allegations contained herein. Per the complaint, AAC created this dangerous condition through its negligent, wrongful acts, by failing to:

  • Properly train, instruct, supervise, and manage company employees to provide aid and assistance in an emergency.
  • Provide usable CFR vehicles and equipment in working condition for use in the event of an emergency.

"An AAC employee literally stood by and watched as Richard Gochie called for help, then failed to offer any assistance as required in this type of life-threatening emergency. This employee's inaction, coupled with the later discovery that the available lifesaving equipment may not have been operational, is mindboggling," said Timothy A. Loranger, attorney for Michelle Gochie. "AAC's willful, wanton, and malicious disregard for human life has deprived Mrs. Gochie of her loving husband and lifelong companion."

Baum Hedlund's Experience Handling Southern California Plane Crash Cases

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represents Michelle Gochie in her lawsuit against AAC over the wrongful death of her late husband, Richard Gochie. For decades, Baum Hedlund aviation attorneys have successfully represented victims harmed in Southern California plane crashes.

Our firm previously handled a case stemming from another 2008 plane crash in Compton. On April 12, 2008, a Cessna 310Q plane crashed into a residence during its final approach to Compton Airport. Three people inside the residence sustained injuries.