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Santa Monica City Files Lawsuit Against Crash-Pilot’s Heirs

The city of Santa Monica has filed a negligence suit against the heirs of the pilot of a small plane that crashed into the local airport and killed four people two years ago.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the estate of Mark Benjamin as well as the Cessna 525A Citation’s owner, CREX-MML LLC. The suit seeks more than $54,000 in cleanup costs stemming from the crash.

According to the lawsuit, the city’s expenses related to the accident included removing plane debris from the runway, securing the site until the Santa Monica Fire Department finished its investigation and the conducting of testing to see whether hydrocarbons from the plane and chemicals from the fire suppressant foam seeped into the soil.

The suit alleges Benjamin negligently landed the aircraft by veering to the right side of the runway and striking some objects before hitting a hangar.

The complaint further alleges that the estate did not respond to a creditor’s claim filed April 17.

Robert Given, the personal representative of the Benjamin estate, could not be immediately reached.

Killed in the Sept. 29, 2013, crash were Benjamin, 63, the president of a Santa Monica-based construction company; his son Lucas, 28; Lucas Benjamin’s girlfriend, 28-year-old Lauren Winkler; and Kyla Dupont, 53.

A report released last year by the National Transportation Safety Board found that all of the tires were inflated and there was no debris on the runway when the plane slammed into the hangar and burst into flames. The hangar collapsed onto the plane, which had taken off from Hailey, Idaho.

Last Nov. 4, three sons of Dupont also sued the Benjamin estate. Charles Dupont, Elliot Dupont and Jackson Dupont allege Benjamin failed to maintain
proper control over the plane, did not act “reasonably in the ownership of the plane,” did not undertake the necessary actions to accomplish a safe flight, did not act reasonably in landing the plane and failed to keep it in good repair.

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