JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --
The families of three U.S. soldiers killed in a plane crash last fall in Afghanistan filed suit in federal court Monday, claiming a military contractor and four Florida-based aviation companies were negligent.
Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, Chief Warren Officer Travis Grogan, Spc. Harley Miller and three civilian crew members died in November 2004 after their aircraft crashed in the Hindu Kush mountains.
Grogan was previously in the Navy and stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
Lawyers from Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell and Matthews say the contractor, Blackwater USA, and the Florida aviation companies, claim the CASA 212 that crashed into a mountain in Nov. 27, 2004, was not suited for the terrain and the civilian pilots had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks and were not properly trained.
"This crash was totally preventable," Bob Spohrer said. "A proper flight plan had not been filed and the crew was newly deployed in the region. The crew was north of its intended route and in violation of FAA regulations that required them to wear oxygen masks at an elevation above 10,000 feet."
Pieces of the engine and wheels were found in snow near the top of Baba Mountain, which rises to 16,600 feet.
Spohrer also said that Blackwater did not provide adequate safety equipment on the plane and ground crews failed to use the emergency location transmitter signal to find the downed plane quickly.
Through its attorney, Blackwater told Channel 4's Casey Black that it did not own the airplane that crashed, they were not involved in the fatal flight and should not be held responsible.
"Blackwater was not the contractor. It did not own the airplane and it played no role in the performance of this contract," attorney Jonathan Stern said.
Spohrer produced a news release from Blackwater, dated Oct. 18, 2004, that announced it had received a $35 million contract to supply three planes for use by the Army in Afghanistan.
The Army and Air Force have conducted investigations into the crash and determined that weather was not a factor in the crash. They also ruled out mechanical malfunction and hostile fire as causing the plane to go down.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
Jeannette McMahon, an Army lieutenant colonel herself, said that losing her 31-year-old husband has been devastating for her and her three kids.
"When my older son went to go on a trip, and was going to fly, he said, 'You know, I'm really going to miss my brother, because he's going on a plane and it might crash,'" McMahon said her youngest son, now 5 years old, is also afraid of dying.
"He sometimes is afraid to go to sleep at night because he says that he is afraid that he will not wake (up)," McMahon said.
The families said they hope this lawsuit will not only get answers to what caused the crash, but will help ensure that other civilian military contractors take necessary safety precautions in the future.
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