Widow of man killed on Hilton Head beach sues pilot, plane manufacturers

The 37-year-old widow of a jogger killed by a kit-built plane making an emergency landing on a Hilton Head Island beach earlier this year is suing the pilot and the makers of the aircraft's parts, according federal district court documents.

The Lancair IV-P plane flown by Edward Smith, 62, of Chesapeake, Va., landed near Palmetto Dunes at about 6 p.m. March 15, killing 38-year-old Robert Jones of Woodstock, Ga.The engine's crankshaft broke, causing the propeller to fall off, an official from the company that sold the kit said in March.

Oil began to leak from the front of the broken crankshaft onto the windshield, and the pilot and his passenger decided to make an emergency landing on the beach, Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Division officials said.

Jones, a pharmaceutical sales representative visiting the island on business, was listening to his iPod as he ran on a beach near Armada Street and probably didn't hear the small plane as it approached from behind, local rescue officials said. He was killed instantly.

His widow, Jennifer Dawn Jones, seeks punitive damages for liability, recklessness, willful or malicious conduct, and negligence, according to a suit filed Sept. 30 in federal district court in Charleston. The amount of damages she is seeking was unclear. In the suit, Jennifer Jones says her husband, the father of their two children, ages 3 and 6, was in excellent health when he set out for his jog that morning.The pilot and his passenger, David Henry, 59, also of Chesapeake, were not injured in the landing that killed Jones.

Jennifer Jones, who is represented by O. Fayrell Furr Jr. of Myrtle Beach, alleges that the pilot and the plane's makers failed to address known defects in the plane.

The plane was built by Smith from a Lancair kit in 2009. Smith said in March that building the plane was a retirement project that took him and a friend more than eight years, or about 14,000 working hours, to complete. He said he received FAA certification for the plane in January 2009.

The lawsuit alleges Smith was negligent in building, maintaining, inspecting, repairing and operating the kit-built plane. He could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Defendants in the suit also include Teledyne Continental Motors, Hartzell Propeller, Lancair and Penn Yan Aero Service. Jennifer Jones claims the manufacturers failed to test the aircraft's parts, notify aircraft owners of "defects and dangerous propensities of various engine components," and to "unreasonably" certify those parts as airworthy, according to the suit.

According to Federal Aviation Administration data and Lancair, Smith installed a used engine from another aircraft in the plane.

Doug Meyer, director of Lancair marketing and sales, said Tuesday that the company did not manufacture the propeller or any part of the engine.

"The propeller broke off, which is part of the engine assembly, and we weren't involved in making the engine," Meyer said.

Teledyne Continental Motors designed, assembled, manufactured and serviced the engine and its components, while Hartzell Propeller assembled and manufactured the propeller, according to the suit. Penn Yan Aero Service, based in New York, apparently inspected, repaired and serviced the plane's engine and components, court records show.

Officials with the companies named in the suit could not be reached Tuesday for comment, nor could Jennifer Jones.