Sister of Prominent Spokeswoman Files Wrongful Death Suit

The sister of a woman who died in a February 2009 plane crash in Buffalo, N.Y., and who had been a prominent spokeswoman for victims of 9/11 terror attacks and their survivors – has filed a wrongful death suit against three airlines, including Houston-based Continental.

Beverly Eckert, a widow since the death of her husband, Sean Rooney, on September 11, 2001 – in the attacks on the World Trade Center on that date – was among 50 passengers and crew aboard Continental Connection flight 3407 departing Newark’s Liberty International Airport on February 12, 2009, that crashed less than 100 yards from its destination of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. Her sister, Margaret Eckert, has filed a wrongful death suit against three airlines, including Houston-based Continental.

The flight was operated by Continental Airlines contractor Colgan Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tennessee-based Pinnacle Airlines Corp.

Margaret Eckert, the executor of her deceased sister’s estate, appeared in federal district court in Connecticut to file suit. She alleges that the plane was operating on autopilot with its wings loaded with ice, a condition that caused the aircraft to slow and stall immediately prior to the crash.

Just a week prior to her death, Beverly Eckert was at the White House with Barack Obama, part of a meeting the president had with relatives of those killed in the 2001 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole to discuss how the new administration would handle terror suspects.
Spokespersons for Continental and Pinnacle declined comment pending litigation.

Colgan operates an average of 173 daily flights for Continental, serving 28 cities, according to Mary Clark, a Continental spokeswoman, a statistic representing 6.5% of the parent airline’s average daily flights systemwide.

From Continental’s Houston hub Colgan flies to a dozen destinations in Texas and Louisiana. From the Newark hub, Colgan flies to 16 East Coast destinations, including Boston, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

Since the crash, there have been no changes in Colgan’s two contracts with Continental, one of which expires in 2010 and the other in 2018, according to Pinnacle spokesman Joe Williams. Margaret Eckert is represented by Stratton Faxon Law Firm in New Haven, Connecticut.

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