The pilot says he warned Lauren Scruggs away from his propeller. According to the NTSB's preliminary report:
After [the pilot] opened the door, [Scruggs] started to get out of the airplane. Upon noticing that she was exiting in front of the strut, the pilot leaned out of his seat and placed his right hand and arm in front of her to divert her away from the front of the airplane and the propeller. He continued to keep his arm extended and told [Scruggs] that she should walk behind the airplane. Once he saw that [Scruggs] was at least beyond where the strut was attached to the wing, and walking away, he dropped his right arm and returned to his normal seat position. The pilot then looked to the left side of the airplane and opened his window to ask who was next to go for a ride.
The pilot then heard someone yell, "STOP STOP," and he immediately shut down the engine and saw [Scruggs] lying in front of the airplane.
While the pilot apparently tried to keep Scruggs from the propeller, it wasn't enough. Sadly, the accident likely would have been avoided had the pilot followed the the general safety guidelines set forth here.
- The aircraft engine should be shut down before boarding or deplaning passengers. This is the simplest method of avoiding accidents. Unfortunately, the pilot elected to keep his engine running.
- The pilot should instruct passengers, before they exit an aircraft with an engine(s) running, the path to follow to avoid the propeller or rotor blades. The pilot apparently failed to instruct Scruggs of the path to follow before she exited the plane. Once she had exited the airplane, given the noise, he was left to rely on crude hand signals to get his message across.
- When it is necessary to discharge a passenger from an aircraft on which an engine is running, never stop the aircraft with the propeller in the path of the passenger's route from the aircraft. Apparently, in this case, the propeller was in the path of the deplaning passenger's travel.