Family of Santa Monica Airport crash victim sues pilot’s estate

The family of a woman killed in a plane crash at Santa Monica Airport in September has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the estate of the deceased pilot.

Kyla Dupont’s three sons filed the complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging the pilot, Mark Benjamin, negligently maintained, controlled and landed the twin-engine Cessna which ultimately led to the death of all on board Sept. 29, CBS Los Angeles reported.

For reasons still unknown, the plane veered hard right off the Santa Monica Airport runway after touchdown, hit a runway sign and crashed into a storage hanger, bursting into flames and collapsing the building.

Benjamin’s son, Lucas, and his son’s girlfriend, Lauren Winkler, both 28, were also on board the plane and died.


According to the Idaho Conservation League, Mark Benjamin shuttled fellow board members on his private jet to Boise, Hailey, and Idaho Falls, Idaho; and finally Santa Monica.

Benjamin was chief executive of Morley Builders, one of the largest construction companies in Southern California and one his father founded more than 60 years ago. Among the company’s major projects are several well-known downtown buildings, including the former Broadway Plaza (now Macy’s Plaza), the Wells Fargo and Security Pacific buildings, and Library Tower (formerly First Interstate World Center).

Dupont’s family is seeking unspecified damages.

A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary investigation reported the plane’s tires were inflated and showed no signs of unusual wear, the landing field was clear and that the pilot “did not express over the radio any problems prior to or during the landing.”

The NTSB‘s investigation began the night of the crash, and its officials began inspecting the plane the day after. The probe was put on hold for more than two weeks when most federal workers were furloughed during the recent government shutdown.

Investigators restarted their work last month, agency spokesman Keith Halloway said.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) asked Deborah A.P. Hersman, who heads the NTSB, to broaden the agency’s investigation beyond determining the cause of the crash, requesting that the agency also look into airport safety concerns raised by those living near the facility.

Hersman said she would take Waxman’s request under advisement.

Last month, Santa Monica officials sued the Federal Aviation Administration to gain control of the city’s embattled airport, which local groups want to turn into a park.


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