Judge Finds FAA Largely to Blame for 2001 Plane Crash

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Wed November 17 2004, 02:12 PM
Judge Finds FAA Largely to Blame for 2001 Plane Crash
Judge Finds FAA Largely To Blame For 2001 Plane Crash

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A federal judge has found Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers were largely to blame for the December 2001 plane crash near Jacksonville International Airport that killed four people.

Lawyers Don Weidner and Thomas Bowden, along with an Orange Park couple, Jim and Adrienne Abrisch, died when the private plane went down in thick fog on approach to JIA.

Thomas Bowden Weidner was piloting his Piper 32 aircraft on a flight from Fort Lauderdale to St. Augustine.

The plane had tried land at both St. Augustine and Craig airports, but fog was too heavy.

The plane went down just before 8 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2001. It was in such thick woods it took rescuers 16 hours to reach the wreckage and confirm that there were no survivors.

Adrienne and Jim Abrisch also died.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled after a non-jury trial that air traffic controllers were 65 percent to blame for the fatal crash by failing to give current weather information, contributing to Weidner's disorientation.

Corrigan said Weidner was 35 percent responsible by forgoing other options after two missed approaches.

FAA lawyers had suggested Weidner might have become disoriented in part because of over-the-counter cold medicine he'd been taking.

Weidner was widely known in the community, having unsuccessfully run for Congress in 1992 and being executive director of the Republican Party of Florida.

A separate trial to set a damage award for the families of the victims will be held scheduled.