Weekly Feature

2014-11-06 / Local News

Final Flight 3407 lawsuit settled

by STEVEN JAGORD Clarence Editor

The last lawsuit to be filed by families of the victims of Flight 3407 was settled last week in State Supreme Court, marking an end to the litigation chapter in the tragedy.

The Wielinski family — whose Clarence Center home was the site of the February 2009 crash that killed 50 people, including patriarch Doug Wielinski — had been the only family to take their lawsuit to trial. On Oct. 30, after seven weeks, they decided to settle with attorneys representing airlines affiliated with the flight.

Video footage posted to the Buffalo News website showed Doug Wielinski’s widow, Karen, speaking outside the courtroom following the announcement that a confidential settlement had been reached. She spoke at length about what she felt the settlement meant to his legacy.

“Doug would be very proud of how we resolved to bring justice to him — a man we loved and a man who provided so well for us,” Wielinski said. “Part of wanting to go to trial was to in my mind make the airlines see what a family has gone through after such a tragedy and to verify that Doug was a good man and a man of many interests. And that has been one of the hardest things in this trial, to feel that we have to justify what kind of man he was. That was very, very difficult.

“I do hope it did get out in this trial that he was a good husband, a good father, a good friend and a good member of the community.”

During the trial, both Wielinski and daughter Jill Hohl, who were at home at the time of the crash, testified about the night of the accident and their escape from their Long Street home as it was engulfed in flames.

The family, including the Wielinski’s three other daughters, sued Colgan Air, its parent company Pinnacle Airlines and Continental, contesting that Doug Wielinski, who was 61, suffered a painful, fiery death. The airlines argued that he died instantly.

Karen Wielinski also expressed melancholy that her husband would not be able to share in the joys that await her and her family in the years to come.

“I just hope the realization remains that we are all here today because Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into our home,” she said. “While we all long for a long, happy life — we know and we do have reasons to be happy, I have grandchildren now — but there’s always that bittersweet note, and that will always be a part of our life.”

In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that pilot error and fatigue were to blame for the accident.

In the five and a half years since the crash, the Wielinskis and other families affected have lobbied Congress for stricter pilot training and safety regulations. They succeeded with the passage of the 2010 Aviation Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act.

In November 2013, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta announced that two of the bill’s most important measures — stall and upset recognition training and a database for tracking pilots’ training hours and flight time — would be implemented by 2019.

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