AFGHANISTAN: Soldiers' Surviving Relatives Sue Contractor

The families of three soldiers killed in an Afghanistan plane crash on Monday sued the contractor that supplied the plane and crew, Blackwater USA, saying it was negligent and didn't make safety a priority.
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Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The families of three soldiers killed in an Afghanistan plane crash on Monday sued the contractor that supplied the plane and crew, Blackwater USA, saying it was negligent and didn't make safety a priority.

"This crash was totally preventable," said attorney Bob Spohrer who filed a wrongful death suit against five subsidiary companies of Blackwater. He contended that a pilot error caused the plane to slam into a snow-covered mountain near Afghanistan's western border of Iran last November.

A call to Blackwater USA was not immediately returned Monday.

Lt. Col. Mike McMahon, 41, Chief Warrant Officer Travis W. Grogan, 31, and Spc. Harley D. Miller, 21 died in the crash, along with three employees of Blackwater USA.

The suit alleges there was nothing wrong with the aircraft and that there was no enemy fire, but that the pilots were newly deployed to the region - arriving in Afghanistan just 16 days before the crash - and had not flown the route they were taking the day of the crash.

The pilots also failed to file a flight plan and rescue efforts were delayed because the company failed to use the electronic location transmitter that might have saved at least one life: Miller survived the crash but died of internal injuries before rescuers arrived two days later.

"Blackwater violated standards ... and their contract with the (U.S.) Department of Defense," Spohrer said. "Above all, they failed in their safety obligation to these U.S. servicemen and their families."

The suit did not specify amount sought in damages.

"In an instant, I went from being Mike McMahon's wife to being his widow," said McMahon's widow, Jeannette.

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