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Wife of Utah man who died in crash sues pilot’s estate

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The widow of a Utah County man killed last summer in a plane crash off the coast of Alaska has made a nearly $2 million claim against the estate of the pilot, who also died in the crash.

Gordon Moses was one of four Utah men who died in the July 13 crash, after a Cessna 401 piloted by Gary Ostler ran out of gas near Gustavus, west of Juneau, and attempted an emergency landing in the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Tresa Moses filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Friday on behalf of herself and her 2-year-old son, charging Ostler acted with "reckless and outrageous behavior" and "exhibited a high degree of disregard for the safety" of his passengers.

"The negligence of defendant Gary Wayne Ostler was the sole and proximate cause of the untimely and violent death of decedent Gordon Earl Woodruff Moses," the suit states.

Gordon Moses was 24 at the time of his death. His 19-year-old brother, Adam, also was killed in the crash, as was Ostler's 18-year-old son, Christopher.

Gordon and Adam Moses were brothers-in-law to the elder Ostler. Survivors Khyl Shumway and Ben Gunn were Ostler's sons-in-law.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the cause of the accident was "the pilot's inadequate in-flight decisionmaking process, and failure to refuel the airplane prior to fuel exhaustion, which resulted in a total loss of engine power."

As a pilot, Ostler had about 15 years' experience, Friday's lawsuit states.

According to the NTSB's final accident report, Ostler bypassed two opportunities to refuel the plane in an attempt to make it to his final destination of Gustavus Airport. When the plane was still 22 miles southeast of the airport, Ostler informed air traffic control that he had less than 5 gallons of gas in each tank. The controller directed Ostler to a closer airport, but Ostler was unfamiliar with the alternate destination and opted to continue on to Gustavus, the report states.

The plane ran completely out of gas about 12 miles short of Gustavus, the report states, and Ostler was forced to land the plane in open ocean waters. All six passengers briefly lost consciousness upon impact, but Shumway, Gunn and both Ostlers were able to exit the plane. Gordon and Adam Moses are believed to have gone down with the aircraft.

Shumway and Gunn were able to swim to a nearby island, and eventually flag down a passing fishing boat. The bodies of Gary and Christopher Ostler, and Gordon and Adam Moses have never been recovered.

In her lawsuit, Tresa Moses seeks $1 million on the wrongful-death claim, $250,000 on a loss of consortium claim and an additional $500,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

According to the suit, she and her son have suffered innumerable harms as a result of the accident, including the loss of the "kindly demeanor that existed between family members."

E-mail: awelling@desnews.com