Family of woman killed in Chickamauga Lake plane crash files wrongful death lawsuit against pilot's estate

Private contractors recover the wreckage of a small plane that crashed in Chickamauga Lake on Monday, January 7, 2019. / Contributed photo by Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Public Relations Division

The family of a woman killed in last year's fatal Chickamauga Lake plane crash has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the deceased pilot's estate.

Multiple people reported seeing a low-flying plane on the afternoon of Jan. 7. One man said he saw the plane go down near Camp Vesper Point in north Soddy-Daisy. After four days of searching, the aircraft was located in about 35 feet of water near an inlet on a property in the 3000 block of Lee Pike. Two victims - retired U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Frank Davey and Lynda Marinello - were recovered. They had been killed on impact.

After an initial delay due to a partial government shutdown, the National Transportation Safety Board - the federal agency that investigates all civil aviation crashes - released its preliminary report the following month.

The report detailed a general overview of what happened but gave no definitive answers about what caused the crash. A final report could take up to two years to complete.

During the preliminary investigation, a witness told federal investigators that the aircraft made a U-turn at low altitude before plummeting into Chickamauga Lake. That was when the plane spiraled down counterclockwise and struck the lake.

At the time of the crash, a local resident told the Times Free Press he saw the crash and called 911.

"I was looking out of the window and it looked like it did a tight loop and it started to spiral down," said the man, who declined to give his name. "I thought it was doing an acrobatic [maneuver] and lost control. Then I saw the crash. I could see the splash on the other side of the cliff."

Marinello's husband, Christopher Marinello, claims Davey was reckless in attempting the maneuver, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday. His negligence and and recklessness is what led to the crash, the Marinello family alleges.

Davey held a commercial pilot certificate with 3,800 hours of flight experience, according to the NTSB.

But Marinello's family claims Davey wasn't flying the plane at its proper angle, which resulted in a stall and subsequent spin. They also allege he failed to maintain adequate airspeed and proper altitude that would allow for recovery from the maneuver he was attempting.

The Marinellos also point out that Davey did not file a fight plan. That isn't unusual for local flights, an NTSB spokesman told the Times Free Press. Flight plans are usually filed for flights that cover longer distances.

Davey family spokesman Richard L. Cox Sr., Davey's childhood best friend, called the lawsuit a legal move to keep the case open past the one-year statute of limitations, which would have expired the same day it was filed.

"To date the NTSB has not issued a final report to the family," Cox told the Times Free Press in an email. "[T]his is an [on]going investigation and we were informed by the NTSB it could take up to two years to receive the final report, after which the family will be notified first for a debriefing."

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