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Prior to departing from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 19, 1995, the pilot of a Beech 58 aircraft was advised by air traffic control to head north, over Lake Erie, after taking off from a westward-facing runway. At 5:37 p.m. the plane took off, climbed a couple hundred feet, and turned to the right, before plunging into the lake mere miles from the shore. Emergency personnel recovered two survivors from the water, both with serious injuries, while the other three passengers, including a twelve-year-old child who one survivor watched drown, were lost to the lake and were declared missing and presumed dead.
The pilot of another plane that departed from the same airport shortly after the Beech reported weather conditions, including darkness, clouds, and the absence of lights or other visual cues over the lake, that he described as “disorienting.” He also stated that the horizon was indistinguishable from the lake. The accident plane had an instrument flight rules (IFR) plan, but it was not followed, as the plane turned northward after climbing only a couple hundred feet, well below the altitude prescribed by a standard IFR procedure.
The Plaintiff lived in North Carolina with his wife. He sustained multiple physical and mental injuries, including fractures of the vertebrae of the spine, extensive burns to his back, legs, pelvis area, and face, injuries to his face and nose, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.