Himsel v. State of AK

In November 1992, a Beechcraft King Air B200 flown by the Alaska Army National Guard with passengers from the U.S. Army crashed into a mountain on its approach into the airport in Juneau, Alaska, resulting in eight casualties. Among those killed was the commander of the Alaska Army National Guard and a visiting major general from Indiana. The weather in the area was windy, with low clouds and rain mixed with snow, and the crash was attributed to pilot error.

The trip was for a routine inspection of a military facility in Juneau. The airplane was on final approach to the facility in Juneau from Elmendorf Airforce Base in Anchorage when it disappeared from radar screens. The crashed plane was spotted in the Chilkat Mountains five hours later. Darkness and bad weather prevented rescue crews from recovering the bodies and wreckage until a day later.

The case went to the Alaska Supreme Court, which held that the State was not immune from suit under the Alaska Tort Claims Act, that the federal Feres doctrine, which prevents armed service members from bringing tort suits against the federal government for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service, did not preclude survivors from maintaining their negligence action pursuant to the Alaska Tort Claims Act. Estate of Himsel v. State of Alaska, 36 P. 3d 35 (Ak. 2001). After being remanded to the trial court, all passenger claims were settled by the State of Alaska.

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