Aaliyah’s parents are looking for some payback in the plane crash that claimed the life of the R&B star and budding actress.
Michael and Diane Haughton touched off a flurry of wrongful-death lawsuits Monday against Aaliyah’s label, Virgin Records, as well as several video-production companies and the owner of the twin-engine Cessna that went down shortly after takeoff last August killing all aboard, Los Angeles’ City News Service reports.
The suit says the defendants’ negligence and recklessness contributed to the August 25 deaths of the 22-year-old entertainer (whose full name was Aaliyah Haughton) and eight others, who were in the Bahamas to shoot a video for “Rock the Boat.”
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims the Cessna was “not an appropriate aircraft” for the entourage. The family also alleges the plane was improperly loaded in a “dangerous and unsafe configuration” and claims the pilot, Luis Morales III, should not have been behind the controls.
The defendants, the suit asserts, had “knowledge that the operation of the [plane] by an inexperienced and unqualified pilot and the selection of an inappropriate aircraft for the charter flight could and would result in a crash.”
There was no immediate comment from Virgin or the other defandants.
The Haughtons’ complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, brings to five the number of suits launched in the wake of the crash. Families of two other passengers killed in the crash–Keith Wallace and Christopher Maldonado–also filed nearly identical actions Monday. In February, the families of two hairdressers killed on the ill-fated flight also sued.
Authorities in both the United States and the Bahamas are still trying to assess blame for the crash of the Cessna 402B shortly after takeoff from Marsh Harbour Airport on Abaco Island. A preliminary report issued in September by the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed suspicions that the plane was severely overloaded, triggering the fatal plunge.
Federal authorities have also launched a criminal probe centering on Gilbert Chacon, owner of the plane. They say the Florida man has refused to cooperate with the investigation, failing to hand over key documents, including the plane’s maintenance records. Chacon’s Blackhawk International Airways has been shuttered since the crash.
Investigators have also been troubled by Morales. Not only was the pilot not authorized to fly the Cessna, but just 12 days before the crash, Morales was in a Florida courtroom pleading no contest to possessing crack cocaine, trafficking stolen airplane parts, theft and driving with a suspended license.
On Friday, Bahamian officials said they were still awaiting results of toxicology tests performed on Morales. But, in a development that could bolster the gaggle of lawsuits, lead investigator Randy Butler told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that Morales’ inexperience flying such a plane may have led him to incorrectly load the baggage and distribute the weight of the passengers, one of whom tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds.
However, Butler adds he was unable to find witnesses to substantiate reports that Aaliyah’s handlers strong-armed Morales into taking off with an overloaded plane.
Meanwhile, aside from the litany of legal action, Aaliyah’s tragic demise has seemingly left another kind of legacy. The Social Security Administration has just put out its annual list of most popular baby names and coming in at 96 was Aaliyah, with 3,301 girls named after the late pop star last year.
By Marcus Errico