First responders observe the crash site of a small plane at Santa Monica Airport in September. (File photo)

First responders observe the crash site of a small plane at Santa Monica Airport in September. (File photo)

SMO—The family of a victim of the recent fatal plane crash at Santa Monica Airport is suing the estate of Mark Benjamin, the plane’s pilot.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed at Los Angeles Superior Court Monday by three of Kyla Dupont’s sons, alleges that Benjamin’s negligence was the cause of Dupont’s death. The suit asks for an unspecified amount of money.

The crash occurred on the evening of Sept. 29 as Benjamin attempted to land his Cessna jet but veered off the runway and into a hangar. The hangar caught fire and the roof collapsed. All four passengers — Benjamin, his son Lucas, Dupont, and Lauren Winkler — were killed. The plane was returning from Hailey, Idaho, where the group had attended an Idaho Conservation League board meeting.

An initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board was not able to determine the cause of the crash. An early theory, that one of the plane’s tires popped, was ruled out in the investigation. Benjamin did not radio to the control towers or send a distress signal as he landed the plane, according to the report. There was no flight recording device on board.

A final report will be issued by the NTSB in a few months.

Benjamin was the president and CEO of Morley Builders, which constructed many iconic city buildings in Santa Monica like the Main Library and the Shore Hotel.

Dupont, 53, lived in San Diego.

Dupont’s sons, Charles, Elliot, and Jackson Dupont, would not comment on the crash, said their attorney Kevin Boyle.

“We are in the process of investigating all of the causes of the crash, and will modify the suit and the claims as appropriate,” he said.

On top of the estate of Benjamin, the suit names MML Investments LLC, a Malibu-based company as a defendant. Benjamin’s Cessna was registered to a Crex MML LLC, which shares the address with MML Investments LLC. Phone calls made to the address go to Benjamin’s answering machine.

The claims of Benjamin’s negligence are currently vague, as the investigation is still ongoing. Defendants are accused of either failing to act reasonably in the flight or landing of the plane, or of failing to maintain or repair the plane.

Damages include the sons’ loss of “love, affection care, society, service, comfort, right to support, companionship,” and more.

Neither Benjamin’s estate nor Morley Builders could be reached to comment for this article.

 

 

dave@smdp.com