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Plane-crash widow files lawsuit

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A West Valley City woman who lost her husband and son in a midair collision over north Davis County last year has filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit in connection with the incident.

LaRae McArthur filed the lawsuit in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City as the personal representative of the estate and guardian ad litem for the minor children of her son, Christopher McArthur.

Joining her in the lawsuit is Gary McArthur, who survived the crash that claimed his brother, nephew and a friend.

The collision between the Piper Cherokee Arrow II and Cessna 182 occurred shortly after the two planes took off from the Ogden Hinckley Airport en route to Salt Lake City on May 10, 1997.

The Piper chopped off part of the Cessna's tail section, causing it to spiral out of control and crash in a West Point cornfield.

Killed were pilot Keith McArthur, 53, West Valley City, his son Christopher, 28, and family friend Richard Hansen, 69, Murray. The Piper's pilot, Lee Sorensen, Stansbury, and his passenger, Gary McArthur, returned safely to the Ogden airport.

The group had flown to Ogden for breakfast and was returning to Salt Lake City in the two planes about 12:30 p.m., with the pilots flying under visual flight rules.

Named as defendants in the negligence and wrongful death action are Sorensen and the estate of Keith McArthur.

According to the lawsuit, Sorensen and Keith McArthur were negligent for failing to maintain visual contact and appropriate separation and also failing to communicate their intentions to each other and to the control tower.

Also, the lawsuit accuses Sorensen of failing to maintain a speed and altitude that would have assured a continuing separation between his plane, which took off first, and the Cessna.

"Sorensen reduced speed and allowed sinking from altitude, which resulted in putting the two planes together," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Christopher McArthur's surviving children, ages 6 and 7, are entitled to damages for loss of support, service, love, care, affection, society, companionship and prospective inheritance.

It said Gary McArthur is entitled to damages because he was "forced to witness the airplane in which his brother and nephew were riding dive uncontrollably out of the sky and ultimately crash and burn, killing and burning his brother, nephew and friend."

Sorensen could not be reached for comment. The case has been assigned to Judge Stephen L. Henroid.