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U.S., Boeing sued over Miramar jet crash

Sign On San Diego

By Gretel C. Kovach

updated July 28, 2010

Don Yoon, the University City man whose wife, two baby daughters, and mother-in-law were killed Dec. 8, 2008, when a Marine Corps jet crashed onto their home, has sued the government and Boeing for negligence, his lawyers said Wednesday night.

The lawsuit alleged that the United States violated many of its own policies and procedures for maintaining and operating the aircraft. It also alleges that defects in the fuel systems, which were designed and manufactured by Boeing, led to the crash.

Yoon previously declined to comment and referred questions to his legal team. He is represented by Raymond Feldman, of Santa Monica, and the Los Angeles law firm Panish Shea & Boyle, neither of which could be reached for comment Wednesday night.

In the complaint filed in San Diego federal court, Yoon’s lawyers alleged that the Boeing F/A-18D Hornet “had a history of warnings and system failures” known to the government and manufacturer.

Yoon’s wife, Youngmi Lee Yoon, 36; his daughters Grace Yoon, age 15 months, and newborn Rachel Yoon; and his mother-in-law, Seokim Kim, 59, were “burned alive and perished” when a “disabled, out of control” jet crashed on the Yoon family home, the complaint stated. The complaint referred to the pilot in training as a “student pilot” who ejected on a flight path “known to the United States to be a public safety hazard for approximately 30 years.”

The Navy had denied Yoon’s administrative claims for wrongful death this spring. The Navy Judge Advocate General Staff, based on the East Coast, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

The Hornet jet was heading for Miramar Marine Corps Air Station when its engines died. Marine pilots generally refrain from using the approach over the heavily populated University City area unless there is an emergency.

The crash destroyed two homes and damaged two others. The Navy has settled at least 20 claims from the accident totaling more than $700,000. But the big-money claims, exceeding $70 million, had remained unresolved. Yoon’s lawyers have declined to specify the amount of his administrative claim.

A Marine investigation released in March 2009 determined that the pilot and ground crews didn’t follow rules for emergency landings and that the Hornet should have been removed from service when mechanics found a fuel problem. The pilot should have landed at North Island Naval Air Station instead of trying to land farther inland at Miramar, the investigators concluded.

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