A plane crash in New Mexico killed three students from a charter school in Silver City, devastating the community and the students’ families. The three students were eco-monitors for the school, and they were on a flight to witness the damage caused by a nearby wildfire. According to an article by the Silver City Sun-News, it was May 23, and the plane was flying near the Whiskey Creek Airport outside the city when a resident of a mobile home park witnessed the plane flying upside-down directly toward the trailer homes. The plane turned away from the mobile home park at the last minute and crashed into a field. All four occupants of the plane were killed in the tragic accident, the exact cause of which remains unknown.
It is unclear whether the students were simply taking the flight together, or if they were on a school-sponsored trip, which would affect the legal implications of this accident. When a plane crashes, it is safe to say that something went wrong. It is not always easy to tell if the problem was caused by somebody’s intentional or negligent behavior, or just the result of an accident. In this case, the mobile home park resident’s statement that the plane was flying upside-down before the crash occurred raises the specter of negligence or human error, and it appears that someone may be legally responsible for the students’ deaths.
A New Mexico wrongful death claim is a way for the families of those killed by the conduct of another person to seek compensation. It was not known at the time the article was published whether the pilot, who was killed, was the owner of the plane that crashed. If the pilot was at fault for the accident and was killed, there may still be parties that could be held responsible for the teenagers’ deaths. The plane likely carried liability insurance, which could help to compensate the victims’ families for their loss. The owner of the plane, if he was not the pilot, could also be legally responsible in some way. If the students were on a trip that was somehow sponsored or supported by their school, the school could be held responsible. Since the school that the students were attending was a charter school, a civil claim for damages may succeed more easily than if the claim was against a regular public school.