Pilot’s father sued for negligence in 2012 plane crash

ST. GEORGE – A complaint has been filed in which the mother of one of the four men killed in a 2012 plane crash at the St. George Municipal Airport is suing the deceased pilot’s father for negligence and negligent entrustment, seeking damages in an unspecified amount to be decided at trial.

The lawyer for Terry Lee Chapman, the mother of Christopher Jordan Chapman, filed a complaint in Utah’s Third District Court in Salt Lake County, Wednesday, against Bradford R. Holt, father of Tanner James Holt. Tanner Holt is named in the lawsuit as the pilot of the aircraft when it crashed.

Christopher Chapman, 20, of Santa Clara, along with with Colby Chester Hafen, 28, also of Santa Clara, Alexander James Metzger, 22, of St. George, and Tanner James Holt, 23, of Washington City, were killed when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff around 1:20 a.m., May 26, 2012.

The lawsuit alleges that Bradford Holt was negligent in allowing his son “unfettered access” to a single-engine Cessna plane at the airport while impaired via the consumption of alcohol earlier that evening.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report identifies Tanner Holt as a commercial pilot with Diamond Flying LCC, with which Bradford Holt is associated. In the lawsuit Tanner Holt, Hafen and Metzger are said to have “consumed alcoholic beverages and/or liquor at a friend’s house.” However, Christopher Chapman had not had any alcohol as confirmed by toxicology report, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit’s account is consistent with what Justin Ross, a friend of the four deceased men, told St. George News concerning the night leading up to the plane crash.

Ross, who was at a party with the four men, said Tanner Holt, Hafen, and Metzger were drinking while Christopher Chapman did not due to his being the designated driver for the evening. At some point during the night the four men decided to go to Mesquite and invited Ross to come along, though he ultimately declined to go.

What took place next according to the preliminary NTSB report:

A review of the recorded security camera footage at the airport revealed that the airplane could be seen in the nighttime conditions by the blinking left-wing strobe light and the navigation light mounted on the tail. The airplane appeared to depart from runway 19 and maneuver at a low altitude for the length of the runway while increasing its airspeed. Near the end of the runway, the airplane began a rapid ascent and continued out of the view of the camera. After about 7 seconds, the airplane reappears further down the frame in a rapid descent.

The accident site was located in the hard dirt area (the southerly primary surface) adjacent to the departure end of runway 19. Situated on the level terrain, the airplane came to rest in an inverted attitude and was oriented on a 315-degree magnetic bearing. The main wreckage, which consisted of a majority of the airframe and engine, was located about 525 feet from the edge of the runway’s center point.

The lawsuit alleges Bradford Holt should have been aware of his son’s alcohol-induced impairment. He/Diamond Flying “negligently entrusted the aircraft to Tanner Holt when they knew or should have known that Tanner Holt was operating the aircraft impaired, under the influence of alcohol or in a manner inconsistent with the plane’s load weight limitations.”

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Bradford Holt is a part of the leadership of ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., also known as Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., which is a subsidiary of SkyWest Airlines. Inc. He has been with SkyWest since 1983 and has served in a myriad of leadership positions for 21 of his 25 years with the company.

Terry Lee Chapman, individually and as representative of the estate of her son, is suing Bradford Holt, Diamond Flying and the Estate of Tanner Holt for both special damages (tangibles, for example burial costs) and general damages (usually intangibles, for example for pain, suffering, emotional distress), with amounts to be determined at trial. 

The NTSB has not yet issued its final report on the investigation.

Attached:  PDF of Complaint, Case No. 130906441 obtained from Utah State Courts online Xchange System – chapman-holt complaint.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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30 Comments

  • Gunther September 27, 2013 at 7:46 am

    The pilot of the plane had full access to the plane as an adult. The other 3 adults made the choice to board the plane as they all knowingly had been partying and/or intoxicated at the time. A tragic incident then followed these decisions. It’s a sad story but and the fact that a law suit is being filed makes this incident even more sad. The mom needs to move on. Those at fault all passed away in the crash.

  • Lee September 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Terry, I’m sorry your son died in this accident, but trying to blame the father of the pilot, if he was not directly involved, is just a waste of time and money. The son was a licensed pilot, and his decision to fly impaired, was his own fault, not his fathers. It seems to me like the ‘designated driver’ had a responsibility to not let the son fly and at a minimum not to get in the plane with him. Sorry for all involved.

  • Diane September 27, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I would think that all who boarded that plane did so willingly. Parents cannot be responsible for their adult children’s behavior. What does this woman hope to gain in continuing to keep this heartache alive in herself or others. All my love go out to the Holt’s during this atrocity.

    • Matthew Sevald September 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Really Diane? I hope your question of what she hopes to gain is rhetorical. The answer is: Money…..lots and lots of money.
      .
      Thank our instant gratification society and unscrupulous lawyers undoubtedly baiting her with tales of how money will fill the void in her life so they can get a large undeserved piece of the undeserved pie.
      .
      Unless Dad was there saying, “Yep son, you’re three sheets to the wind, but here’s the keys anyway” I can’t believe a judge approved this lawsuit to even go forward in the first place.
      .
      These sorts of things are why I drink.

  • Mike Hobson September 27, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Yet another frivolous law suit. Her son lived a party boy lifestyle and it caught up with him. It is not the other man’s dads fault.

  • Diane September 27, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I just saw a post from a reliable source that this article is incorrect. If that’s the case this newspaper has just lost all credibility. How shameful to stir this controvesy up. This has got to be the worst heartbreak that a parent would endure to lose a child. If this is a false story then shame on you. I will get my news other places.

    • My Evil Twin September 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      FWIW, this same article was also published in the today’s Spectrum.

  • Donna September 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I give my deepest condolences to anyone involved in this tragedy. I find it mind blowing that Terry has the guts to do this–she isn’t the only person who lost someone in this tragedy, she isn’t the only one who had to bury her son. I didn’t know Jordan that well but from what I did know of him, he wouldn’t want it this way–I actually believe he’d be disappointed. It seems more logical for everyone to come together & love one another instead of turning this tragedy into a catastrophe. LET GO LET GOD.

  • Just Sayin September 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I think the father of the pilot, Bradford Holt, should file a counter-claim because the only person who was not intoxicated actually drove the 4 individuals 10-15 miles to the airport which enabled the pilot to gain access to the aircraft. It is a sad situation but the lawsuit against the father is ridiculous.

  • Brett Jackson September 27, 2013 at 10:27 am

    The kid made the decision to board a plane that was piloted by an intoxicated person. Should the father be required to stand constant guard over the aircraft? I find it highly unlikely that they notified him before they went and took off.

    Sounds like this person has seen an opportunity to take advantage of a tragedy to enrich herself.

  • Jason September 27, 2013 at 10:31 am

    It’s all about money and when it comes down to it you sue the one that has it or a business with good insurance. Being in the insurance industry I have seen cases such as this and they usually win all they have to do is establish just 1% of negligence and they have a case.

  • Mark September 27, 2013 at 10:45 am

    This story kind of went away after afew days when it happened, yet other tragic stories linger around for weeks, is it because of who they were or where they are from ? Good ol boys ?

  • Camille Rowley September 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Shame on this article’s author, Mori Kessler. You should probably get all the facts before you write an article like this. Brad hadn’t seen his son since noon the previous day, and Tanner took the plane (which belongs to a friend of Brad) without permission. Tanner and his friends made an incredibly tragic decision to fly drunk, and it is made even more tragic when a misguided, grieving family tries to take revenge on someone who had nothing to do with the accident. And, Kessler, you’re certainly not helping by reporting the situation incorrectly.

    • My Evil Twin September 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Same article in the Spectrum, so unless Mr. Kessler wrote both articles, maybe YOU need to get your facts straight.

      • Camille Rowley October 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

        Maybe he shouldn’t list himself as the author then. That’s plagiarism. Either way, his facts are incorrect.

    • DB September 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Camille, exactly what did Mr Kessler get wrong in his article? I’m with everyone else here – I think the lawsuit is a sham. It seems as though you want to kill the messenger for some reason.

      • ladybugavenger September 28, 2013 at 11:02 am

        Db, Camille already said what was wrong with the article and it’s facts. She said,”Brad hadn’t seen his son since noon the previous day, and Tanner took the plane (which belongs to a friend of Brad) without permission.” The article implies it is the fathers plane but according to Camille it was a friend of the father’s plane and the son stole the plane. Camille, perhaps they got the article from the facts in the complaint, which in turn will not be complete for it comes from one side-the person filing the complaint. The rest of the facts will have to come out in the answer to the complaint, if this goes that far.

  • Justin Ross September 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    You have absolutely no right to use my name in this article. I am demanding you take it off or you will see a lawsuit coming your way.

    • My Evil Twin September 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      They certainly do have the right to use your name. Go ahead, ask your lawyer.

    • Spencer September 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      You filed and PUBLIC police record, and subsequently interviewed for a PUBLIC new article.. yes they can use your name.

      • Spencer September 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Man, not my day. a* police record, public news* article

    • Dan Lester September 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      No problem at all using your name, dude. All it is link back to what YOU reported last year. And you made no objection to that story at that time.

      Anybody could google the old story and find your name and what you said then.

      It is all a sad story for all involved and sadder that this latest chapter has arisen, perhaps because of an ambulance chaser hoping to make some big bucks (a third or more of anything awarded).

      • Sweet Jude September 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        Why are you always dressed up so pimp-like? Is it your wedding day or did you just want to look “fabulous” for us all? No offense, just wonderin’ 😉

    • Shemp September 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Justin. I feel bad for you to have lost 4 of your friends. It must be just as hard to deal with as it was when it happened. Your name will be published many more times before this is over and your nightmares will continue instead of being allowed to heal as you are drug into court over this tragedy. You are now going to be put into a place no person wants to be when trying to get on with life just as the rest of the families not involved will be. This lawsuit is just going to prolong the hurt for many families. All the money in the world is not going to bring back your friends. If you are mad at anyone, it should be the lady who is trying to profit from the events not a news source that is printing facts on public record.

  • Anna September 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    To the mother suing; The father of the pilot already lost his son and now you’re suing him causing him further pain and grief. Have a heart and forgive. All of your sons are at peace now and I highly doubt they would approve.

  • tyson September 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    can you really put a price on your son’s life?? stupid lady..

    • My Evil Twin September 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      Stupid, GREEDY lady. . .

  • jallen September 28, 2013 at 2:25 am

    I guess she feels she has the RIGHT to sue since she lost her son ,who willingly boarded an aircraft. I really don’t know how she can hold Mr.Holt accountable,. Why isn’t she suing the kid that drove them there? Oh, that’s right he probably doesn’t have any money! Very sad that the Holt family is being dragged to court over this!

  • Jason September 28, 2013 at 3:28 am

    It will be interesting to see the outcome. With auto accidents leaving your keys on the table or “accessible” is considered implied permission and is used to prove liability.

  • Craig September 28, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Unlike some of the critics on this site, I don’t feel that Terry Lee Chapman is greedy or stupid. I do believe that she is hurting and grieving for her son. It’s a horrific loss not only for her to deal with, but also for the family and friends of all four of the young men
    The finger pointing should be at the lawyers who are taking on this case. The ambulance chasers who are leading her to believe this is the fault, somehow, no matter how misguided of Bradford Holt.
    To try to make someone pay for their adult son’s poor decisions is ridiculous.
    Ms.Chapman, I hope you find a way to move beyond this and the untimely death of your son. Perhaps holding your son up for others to learn from mistakes that were made is a better way to deal with your grief.
    Remember him for the good that he did and the contributions that he made in his short life.

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