Families of 3 Students Reach Settlement after Fatal New Mexico Plane Crash

The families of three high school students who died in a plane crash during a school activity have reached a financial settlement and will also receive a formal apology from the school for negligence leading to the children’s deaths in 2014.

Three students from Aldo Leopold Charter School in New Mexico were flying in a single-engine plane over a burn area in the Gila National Forest on May 23, 2014, as part of an ecological monitoring project for their internships with the Youth Conservation Corps Eco Monitoring program at the school. When their inexperienced pilot failed to properly execute a landing in unstable weather, the plane overshot the airport and crashed in an empty field. All three students and the pilot were killed.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the students who died that day were Ella Kirk, 14, Michael Mahl, 16, and Ella Myers, 16. Initially, the school stated that the students were not on a school trip. However, it then became known that a teacher from the school had organized the trip and chartered the pilot without telling the school principal. The pilot, Peter Hochla, was a psychiatrist based out of Albuquerque who was found to have lacked the experience necessary to “land the high-performance plane in a crosswind.” The teacher who organized the trip did not properly vet the pilot and will receive a formal letter of reprimand.

The mother of one of the sophomores who died (Ella Kirk), Patrice Mutchnick, said in a statement after the settlement, “Our objective has always been to help the school understand the chain of events leading up to this terrible tragedy. Where were the checks and balances that should have prevented the teacher from putting the children on a plane with a non-commercial pilot in such bad weather? We hoped the school could take responsibility for their actions leading up to the crash, so they could learn from their mistakes and take steps to make sure this kind of thing never happens again.”

The families of the students reached a $750,000 settlement and will also receive an undisclosed amount from the pilot’s insurance company.

When families suffer as a result of negligence leading to an airplane crash, the pursuit of justice is often vitally important to them, as is the pursuit of financial compensation for their suffering and damages. To learn how an experienced plane crash attorney can help you and your loved ones hold negligent parties responsible, please contact us to schedule a free legal consultation.

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