Pilot's husband says fuel company is to blame

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) A lawsuit has been filed claiming that a fuel company is to blame for a July 2001 crash that killed a pilot and three passengers.

Fairbanks doctor Nancy Lewis, 48, and a couple from Albuquerque, N.M., and their son, were killed in the crash.

Lewis' husband, Hugh Rose, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Evert's Air Fuel exactly two years after the death of his wife and the others.

In the lawsuit, attorney Randy Clapp alleges that an Evert's employee did not replace a cap on the fuel storage tank for the floatplane, allowing moisture into the gas Lewis would later use on a flight that ended with a crash near Lake Sithylemenkat, about 50 miles south of Bettles.

''We believe the engine stopped because of water in the gas,'' Clapp said Tuesday.

Lewis was on a sightseeing trip in a 1977 Maule M-5 on July 15, 2001, when the plane crashed into a mountainside.

A National Transportation Safety Board report listed the cause of the accident as ''the pilot's inadvertent stall of the airplane during an unknown phase of flight.''

The lawsuit alleges that Evert's delivered about 300 gallons of fuel to a bulk gas tank at the east ramp of Fairbanks International Airport about three days before the fatal flight.

Because the cap to the tank had not been replaced, the gas was exposed to water and contaminents, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks an amount of compensation to be determined by a jury during trial. It was filed on behalf of Lewis' husband and the representative of her estate. It does not seek compensation for the death of the three passengers, Stephen L. Wilkes, 54, his wife Janette S. Carter, 49, and their 9-year-old son Elliot Wilkes.

An Evert's employee said Tuesday that the company hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment.

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