Learjet Cleared in Payne Stewart Crash Trial
The six-woman jury in a wrongful-death trial ruled yesterday that Learjet (now Bombardier) should not be held responsible for the death of professional golfer Payne Stewart, his agent and four others who were killed Oct. 25, 1999, in the crash of their Learjet 35. Stewart's and his agent's families alleged that the accident was caused by a broken outflow valve, resulting in decompression and the escape of cabin air as the jet climbed to its cruising altitude. The families were seeking $200 million. Defense lawyers told the jury that the jet, chartered from now defunct Sunjet Aviation, lost pressure some other way and that the crash caused the damage to the valve. Communication with the jet was lost soon after takeoff from Orlando on a planned flight to Dallas, but the jet flew on for hours, all aboard presumably unconscious, until it ran out of fuel and crashed in a field in South Dakota. The NTSB concluded there was a loss of cabin pressurization "for undetermined reasons." A spokesman for Bombardier told AIN, "We are pleased with the outcome of this trial and we are sympathetic to the losses suffered by the families of those killed, but while the accident was certainly a tragedy, it was not caused by Learjet."