The family of a young woman killed in a 2010 plane crash has settled its lawsuit against the federal government for $750,000. Emma Biagioni was a 20-year-old Hope College student; she and the pilot, David Otai, 23, both died in the January 17, 2010 crash, in Allegan County, Michigan.
Peter Biagioni filed a wrongful death suit against the government last November, claiming air-traffic controllers in Muskegon failed to help Otai when he radioed he was having trouble in heavy fog. Otai, a native of Kenya and also a Hope College student, was piloting a rented Cessna out of Tulip City Air Service (now West Michigan Regional Airport); he ran into heavy fog and called for assistance within 15 minutes of take-off. His first call, requesting radar directions to a runway, was unanswered—the controller was tied up with another duty—seconds later, the controller responded but said she did not understand what the pilot said. She advised him to contact the flight service station on a certain frequency before she realized she relayed the wrong frequency, the lawsuit said.
Otai “reiterated what he told Defendant’s air traffic controller on his first call-up transmission – that he was caught in fog and wanted radar vectors to Tulip City Airport.” The pilot said he was flying under visual flight rules, but was having an emergency. Shortly after this transmission, the plane crashed into a farm field four miles south of Holland, Michigan. Biagioni’s lawsuit claimed proper response by the controller could have resulted in the plane being identified by radar and climbing, and re-directed to an airport where visibility was better.
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