Compressor Turbine Blade Fracture Results in Private and Small Plane Crash Lawsuit

Case Title: Lee Odekirk, et al. v. Dallas Airmotive, Inc., et al.

On August 24, 2008, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (TG-JES) operated by Aero Ruta Maya was carrying volunteers and missionaries to a remote area in Guatemala to finish building a school and homes, when the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-44A engine suffered a catastrophic failure. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed that day for the flight that left La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala for El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala. The airplane experienced a loss of engine power about fifteen minutes after takeoff. The pilot reported engine trouble and told passengers to prepare for a crash landing. The pilot attempted an emergency landing but crashed in a field near Zacapa, Guatemala where farmers were working. The plane’s wreckage was scattered along a barren field lined with palm trees. The nearby farmers assisted in getting the survivors off the plane before it exploded, but many were still seriously burned. There were fourteen persons on board, and only four survived the crash. The passengers were volunteers who had paid their own way to Guatemala, and they also financed some of the building materials for the school. Some of the volunteers were from an aid organization called Choice Humanitarian, based in Utah.

According to the Direccion General De Aeronautica Civil, the engine power loss was caused by the fracture of a compressor turbine blade. The engine was on a time before overhaul (TBO) extension program was approved by Pratt & Whitney Canada, the engine manufacturer. There was evidence the engine had had at least one, possibly two, overtemperature events.

Our firm represented seven deceased and two surviving passengers and successfully prosecuted the case against Aero Ruta Maya and Pratt & Whitney, as well as Dallas Airmotive, a turbine engine maintenance facility located in Dallas, Texas. The lawsuits were resolved for confidential amounts but the total settlement remains one of the largest ever achieved for passengers on a chartered flight.

Ladd Sanger is an attorney and a licensed pilot who focuses on aviation accidents, including product liability, product litigation, and representing clients who have been injured as a result of aviation accidents. His experience as a pilot helps him understand the technical aspects of aviation crashes.

Date of Incident

August 24, 2008

Location of Incident

Zapacapa, Guatemala

Media Coverage

10 Killed in Guatemalan Plane Crash - The New York Times

'Engine trouble' before Guatemala crash - The Sydney Morning Herald

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