Payne Stewart Crash Remembered, 10 Years On
Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the Payne Stewart accident, in which the 42-year-old professional golfer and five others aboard a chartered Learjet 35 lost their lives after the jet suffered a loss of pressurization during a flight from Orlando, Fla., to Dallas. All aboard the Learjet fell unconscious from the effects of hypoxia about 15 minutes after departing Orlando International Airport. They were believed to have perished by the time the “ghost” airplane finally ran out of fuel and crashed four hours later in a field near Aberdeen, S.D. The NTSB determined that the airplane had undergone maintenance related to cabin pressure several times in the months leading to the accident, but the Board failed to determine whether a common problem led to the need for the parts replacements and repairs. Stewart’s widow and the family of the golfer’s agent, Robert Fraley, who also died in the accident, sued the operator of the Learjet, Sunjet Aviation, and its owner, JetShares One, for $200 million. The case went to trial in June 2005 in federal court in Orlando, where jurors acquitted the defendants. In their verdict, the jurors also found that Bombardier bore no liability due to negligence in the design or manufacture of the airplane.