A Galloway Township woman who survived a fatal plane crash in Ocean County, then sued the state, her employer and the pilot’s estate, has reached settlements with all of the defendants.
Jacalyn Toth Brown, 33, was critically injured in 2008 when the Cessna plane she was flying in crashed in Eagleswood Township. The accident killed the pilot and another passenger and injured a fourth person.
Brown faulted the State Police for prematurely stopping a search for the plane and ultimately taking about four hours to find the crash site, even though it was less than two miles from their barracks.
State Attorney General’s Office spokesman Leland Moore confirmed Friday that Brown would receive $125,000 as part of the deal, but the state did not admit any wrongdoing.
Brown also sued the estate of the pilot, John Ambroult, 60, of Eastham, Mass., alleging he “did carelessly, negligently and recklessly inspect, maintain, repair and operate the aircraft,” as well as her employer, Geo-Marine Inc., saying it knew the aircraft was unsafe but chartered it anyway.
The attorney representing the company and the estate, Zachary Ballard, and Brown’s attorney, Richard Ansell, confirmed they also reached settlements last year but declined to comment on specifics. Ansell said Brown would receive a “substantial sum.”
Brown was part of a team of scientists conducting an aerial survey of marine mammals. The plane crashed after running out of fuel.
She filed her lawsuit in 2010 after the National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the accident and blamed Ambroult for negligently managing his plane and failing to properly fuel it before the flight.
The NTSB report also detailed that the scientists flying with Ambroult had previously expressed concerns about him as a pilot as well as about the safety of his plane.
Ambroult suffered nonsurvivable injuries, the report stated, but the other victim, Stephen Claussen, 41, of Seattle — who trained the killer whale Keiko that portrayed Willy in the movie “Free Willy” — might have survived if he had received medical attention sooner.
Nearby residents said they reported the crash but State Police did not believe them after searching for two hours without being able to find the plane. Later, the other survivor, Juan Carlos Salinas, of Mexico City, called police and directed them to the scene.
Moore said the state’s attorney confirmed the settlement by letter Dec. 4, but the papers are not finalized yet.
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