Survivors of a prominent Aurora attorney who died last year after his plane crashed through the roof of a Florida supermarket have sued the plane manufacturer, arguing the aircraft had a faulty design and fuel lines that were prone to clogging.
Kim Edward Presbrey, 60, died in late May 2012 after the SeaWind 3000 he was flying April 1 stalled and crashed into the Publix Supermarket in DeLand, Fla.
Presbrey suffered third-degree burns on his back and face; his passenger, Bull Valley resident Thomas Rhoades, also was injured and three people in the grocery store suffered burns.
The lawsuit, recently filed on behalf of Presbrey's widow, Colleen, in Cook County Court, argues the plane had a design that made it more prone to power losses during takeoffs and assents. The lawsuit also argues the four-seat plane had a fuel tank design "that made it more likely that debris would form and obstruct the fuel lines" and did not have sufficient warnings that it was built out of highly flammable and combustible materials.
"Kim Presbrey was an experienced, safe and prudent pilot, who was at the controls of a bad airplane," said Christopher Hurley, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Colleen Presbrey. "No one would have been able to control it in the same situation. The fact is, that plane should have been grounded unless and until changes were made to address its loss of power issues."
A message left for Richard Silva, owner of the Kimberton, Penn.-based SeaWind LLC, was not returned Thursday.
The SeaWind 3000 is an experimental amphibious plane with a single engine mounted on the tail.
The suit also names the engine manufacturer, airplane assembler and mechanic who inspected the plane before Presbrey bought it as defendants.
No immediate court date has been set; the suit argues wrongful death and negligence and seeks more than $50,000 in damages and a jury trial.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash and has not yet issued a report on its findings.
Hurley said that Rhoades, a commercial airline pilot, testified in a deposition that Presbrey was an excellent pilot who completed all the preflight safety checks and that the engines just died.
"The engine suddenly and catastrophically died," Hurley said. "(Rhoades) witnessed the engine die, thereby causing the crash."
Presbrey specialized in workers' compensation law, was past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois State Bar Association.