Today, Motley Rice filed a wrongful death suit against the U.S. government in the wake of the July 7, 2015 mid-air collision that tragically claimed the lives of 68-year-old Michael Johnson and his 30-year-old son Joseph Johnson minutes after the pair departed Berkeley County Airport en route to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation determined that an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon jet crashed into the single-engine Cessna 150C piloted by Joseph Johnson, scattering debris from the wreckage throughout the rice fields and residential property near Lewisfield Plantation in Moncks Corner, 25 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina.
The jet’s pilot, Maj. Aaron Johnson, a member of the 55th Fighter Squadron with the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, managed to eject to safety and was hospitalized after the collision. The father and son, however, died at the scene.
The civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of the deceased’s family alleges the U.S. government and FAA personnel failed to provide necessary and appropriate radar navigational guidance that could have prevented the collision by properly warning the F-16 of impending traffic. An air traffic controller had been in communication with the jet’s pilot and alerted him of the Cessna’s nearby presence prior to the collision, the NTSB investigation revealed.
“She took inappropriate action,” Motley Rice aviation attorney and former U.S. Air Force navigator Jim Brauchle said in an interview with Charleston news station WCBD-TV. “She asked the pilot to look, and then if he couldn’t see, to make some kind of maneuver.”
The controller then ordered the jet to make an immediate left turn that then sent the aircraft careening into the Cessna piloted by the Johnson family.
The FAA personnel responsible for monitoring air traffic “owed a duty to plaintiffs’ decedents to exercise reasonable care in providing air control services,” but failed to do so, the complaint states, leading to the tragic and untimely deaths of the father and son.
Read the full complaint.