ICON Aircraft hired away from Ford Motor Company a superstar PhD to lead its engineering department. When Cagri Sever showed up at ICON’s facility in Vacaville, the first thing ICON did was send him off on a “demonstration” flight with the company’s chief pilot, Jon Karkow. Karkow flew to
Lake Berryessa, a virtual stone’s throw from the ICON factory. Once there, Karkow couldn’t resist the urge to engage is some low level maneuvering over the water. Minutes after takeoff, Karkow crashed onto the shore, leaving both of them dead.
There are less than two dozen ICON A5 aircraft flying. Yet, there have already been two fatal crashes, the second one taking the life of baseball player Roy Halladay. Both crashes involved hot-dogging.
Critics of the A5 — which some refer to as “a jet-ski with wings” — questioned from the outset whether it was such a good idea. The A5 is all about the fun and excitement of flying close to the water. But low level maneuvering is dangerous business and, as any fighter pilot will tell you, it’s even more so when conducted over water. Does it really make sense to market a machine built for this purpose to the general public?
ICON has already conceded that Karkow was to blame. And the National Transportation Safety Board agrees, having determined that the crash was the result of the pilot’s “failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude”— NTSB code for “hot-dogging.”
Along with our co-counsel Nelson & Fraenkel, we’ve filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ICON on behalf of Sever’s wife and two children.
The general rule is that a family cannot sue an employer for a loved one’s work-related death. Such suits are generally barred by Workers Compensation laws. But this situation is unusual. The ICON A5 is a seaplane and it crashed along the shores of Lake Berryessa, which is considered “navigable waters.” Thus, the federal laws of admiralty apply. Those laws, which would hold ICON accountable for the actions of its chief pilot, trump state workers compensation law.