Woody Creek resident sues over jet accident | AspenTimes.com

Woody Creek resident sues over jet accident

Chad Abraham

A Woody Creek man is suing two Aspen aviation companies and two local pilots after the private plane he was in slid off a runway at the Eagle County airport and caught fire.The lawyer for Mark Hudgens said the July 15 accident left his client disabled and bedridden for months with spinal cord injuries. Named as defendants are Aspen Base Operations, Aspen Aviation, pilot Warren Levine of Aspen and co-pilot Gilbert Wright of Carbondale.Hudgens commissioned the Learjet for air ambulance transportation, according to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 21 in Pitkin County district court. His lawyer, Clay Robbins of Los Angeles, would not divulge why Hudgens needed the flight, citing attorney-client privilege. The Vail Daily, in an article the day after the crash, said Hudgens was receiving treatment at an Edwards cancer center. The flight took off from Aspen’s Sardy Field.Levine said it was not an air ambulance flight – “We’re not licensed to be an air ambulance carrier” – but simply a chartered trip.When asked about why the plane skidded off the runway, he mentioned that the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the accident is not complete. An agency spokeswoman confirmed that, saying the results of the investigation results will be released soon; NTSB officials do not discuss ongoing cases. Levine has his own ideas about what happened.”Based on what the airplane did, I would say there was some mechanical discrepancy that caused the airplane to veer off the runway,” he said.But Robbins said the NTSB is looking into a number of scenarios that could have led to the incident, including the possibility that the plane “was coming in too fast and landed too hard,” he said.A witness told the Vail Daily that he saw “a big commercial plane doing touch-and-gos, then another plane came in really fast,” the man said. “I saw a lot of black smoke.”Two people were taken off in stretchers, he told the paper.The lawsuit alleges that Hudgens, who was traveling with a nurse, “was left crippled in the burning wreckage … while the pilot and co-pilot abandoned him and ran from the wreckage for their own safety.”Asked about that claim, Robbins said, “That’s what [Hudgens] saw.” Levine had a different version of events.”Both pilots were not the first people out of the airplane,” he said. “After the accident, the main cabin door was opened by the co-pilot, and he assisted the two passengers out of the airplane. I was actually the last one out of the airplane.”A message left at the home of Wright was not returned.Hudgens injured his spinal cord, ribs, chest and other internal organs in the accident, the lawsuit says.He was not able “to walk for a good period of time after the accident. He was bedridden,” Robbins said. “It’s my understanding that he has just recently started being able to get up and walk around.”Hudgens could walk before the incident, Robbins added. His medical bills thus far have exceeded $60,000, the lawsuit says.Both Aspen Base Operations and Aspen Aviation were sold in October. Aspen Base Operations was sold to Texas-based Trajen FBO Network. Chad Farischon, general manager of Trajen FBO at Sardy Field, said the company did not assume any liabilities relating to Aspen Base Operations or Aspen Aviation.”It’s the old regime; it has nothing to with Trajen,” he said.Cliff Runge, one of the owners of Aspen Base Operations when it was sold and the founder of Aspen Aviation, was not available to comment.Aspen Base Operations provided fuel and maintenance for aircraft; Aspen Aviation was a charter jet service.The lawsuit requests a jury trial.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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