Airline attorneys ask for change of venue in 3407 trial

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) – The last remaining lawsuit that has yet to be settled in the crash of Flight 3407 is being argued before the August trial date.

Karen Wielinski’s husband, Doug, died when the Colgan Air jet crashed into their home on February 12, 2009. Tuesday, lawyers for the family revealed disturbing details about Doug’s death.

When Flight 3407 crashed into the Wielinski home on February 12, 2009, Karen and her daughter Jill managed to escape. Karen, in the back of the house, had a broken shoulder. Jill, in an upstairs front bedroom, had some abrasions from flying debris. Doug, who was in the middle of the house where the plane crashed, was not killed on impact, according to the family’s attorneys, who say he suffered greatly as his body was burning.

The Wielinski family is the last of the families who lost loved ones to have their case considered for settlement. According to their attorneys, they are being offered half of what some other families received.

Debra Norton, an attorney for the Wielinski family said, “This family has lost everything. They lost their husband and father. They lost their home. They lost the physical memories of their loved one. Their loss is so much greater. Their loss should be triple or quadruple what anybody else’s loss should be.”

The family is suing Continental, Colgan, and Pinnacle airlines for what they say was Doug’s conscious pain and suffering as well as his fear of impending death. They are also asking for punitive damages and compensation for what Karen and and her two daughters have suffered.

“Every day it’s a reminder of the accident,” said Jill Hohl, who escaped with her mother. “What we went through and just having to deal with the loss of my dad.”

The airlines have asked State Supreme Court Justice Frederick Marshall to dismiss some of the claims and Continental doesn’t want to bear any liability, saying it was not responsible for hiring, training, or supervising Colgan Airlines pilots.

Airline attorneys are also seeking a change in venue for the trial from Erie to Chautauqua County.

Continental Airlines attorney Oliver Beiersdorf said in court, “These were Colgan employees, trained by Colgan, pursuant to FAA approved training program. Continental had zero control.”

Karen Wielinski said outside the courtroom, “Their logo was on the piece of plane that my daughter and I first witnessed when we emerged from the rubble, so their logo was on the plane.”

Norton added Continental “had the exclusive rights to all those planes. It was the only one that could sell a seat on the plane. Colgan couldn’t put those planes in the air without Continental.”

The crash of Flight 3407 has been blamed on pilot error. Pilot Marvin Renslow and first officer Rebecca Shaw did not operate the plane correctly when faced with a midair stall, which caused the crash.

Karen Wielinski and her family were in court, dressed in symbolic red, listening to these arguments.

Jury selection begins August 11.

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