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Minnesota Woman Sues Air Traffic Controller Over Family Deaths

A mother is mourning after the death of her three sons when they were in a plane crash with their father in Wyoming. Now she is suing the air traffic control company that provides services at the Jackson Hole Airport.

Michelle Bucklin’s ex-husband was a pilot and was the pilot of the plane that carried their three sons. He was given clearance to fly although the weather was bad and lost control of the plane over the Wind River Range.

As a result of this crash, Mrs. Bucklin is suing Serco Inc based out of Virginia, claiming that the negligence of the air traffic controller was the cause of the crash.

The victims were 41-year-old Luke Bucklin of Minneapolis, 12-year-old Noah, and 14-year-old twins Nick and Nate. They all died when the plane crashed in October 2010 in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.

Luke Bucklin was the ex-husband of Michelle Bucklin and he had remarried since their divorce. He was the co-founder and president of Sierra Bravo Corp, a Minnesota-based web development company in Bloomington.

Bucklin and his sons were flying to a family function in Jackson Hole in the 1977 Mooney. A snowstorm was about to hit the area, so he tried to book a commercial flight home, but the commercial flight was cancelled. This is when he decided to go ahead and fly his own plane home.

A voice recording originating from the doomed flight shows that he had difficulty achieving elevation over the Wind River Range in the snow storm right before the crash occurred. This caused him to descend rapidly. Bucklin was heard in the recording saying there were “severe mountain waves,” which was a reference to the wind currents over the mountains.

The wreckage was found by mountaineers and so were the bodies of all four victims after search parties searched for a week.

The lawsuit says that the airplane that was piloted by Bucklin was flying too low, resulting in the collision with the mountain.

The National Transportation Safety Board says in their report that Bucklin had made phone calls to the Jackson Hole Airport twice to talk to flight services to get the weather briefings for the day of his flight. It is said that the reports for the day said that there was turbulence, icing, and mountain obscuration. This has caused the National Transportation Safety Board to determine that it was Bucklin’s decision to fly the heavily loaded plane in the bad weather conditions that caused the crash.

However, the NTSB noted that the air traffic controller that was handling Bucklin’s flight gave him clearance when he shouldn’t have, leading him on a path that would have him flying over some of the highest mountains in Wyoming. They also noted this as a contributing factor.

In addition, the report said that the plane was at or near maximum certified weight. The information was available to Bucklin, but he may have discounted that fact or was unaware of it, especially since the route that he was assigned required an altitude that was near the altitude limits of the plane. The altitude of that route was higher than he had requested.

It seems that there were a great deal of factors that contributed to the crash.

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