District Court dismisses suit over 2012 fatal plane crash


U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy on Friday dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit over a plane crash at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport in 2012 in which one passenger was killed and five others, including the pilot, were injured.

Kennedy dismissed the lawsuit after the parties reached a settlement deal.

Dismissed with prejudice means the plaintiffs can no longer re-file the case.

The plaintiffs who sued are passengers—Xiuzhong Zhu, Meilin Zhou, and Xiaohua Zhou—who were injured during the crash. Xing Hong, another passenger who also suffered serious injuries, has already agreed to settle the matter.

Xiaojie Ge, a representative of passenger Weilian Lu who was killed in the crash and Lu’s minor daughter, Y. Ge, is also a plaintiff and already agreed to settle the case.

The plaintiffs sued Marianas Air Transfer Inc., Tinian Transportation Management Solutions Inc., Star Marianas Air, Top Development, and pilot Jai Choi.

Kennedy said the court will retain jurisdiction over the matter to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement between the parties.

The magistrate judge said each party shall bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs.

In April 2016, U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Consuelo B. Marshall dismissed with prejudice the four causes of action—negligence, wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and strict liability—filed by the plaintiffs against Marianas Air Transfer and Tinian Transportation Management Solutions.

Marianas Air Transfer is the registered owner of the aircraft involved in the crash, while Tinian Transportation Management performs maintenance on the plane.

Marshall’s ruling left five remaining claims—negligence against Star Marianas Air; negligence against Top Development Inc.; wrongful death against Star Marianas Air, Top Development, and Jae Choi; negligent infliction of emotional distress against Star Marianas Air, Top Development, and Choi; and strict liability pursuant to the Montreal Convention against Star Marianas Air.

The parties then reached a settlement agreement.

The parties are attorney Mark B. Hanson, who is counsel for plaintiffs, and attorneys Timothy H. Bellas and Stephen J. Nutting, who are counsels for Star Marianas Air Inc. and Top Development Inc. respectively.

The seven-passenger Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six crash landed into the trees north of the runway at the airport on Nov. 19, 2012, killing Weilian Lu and injuring pilot Choi and four other passengers. The plane was operated by Star Marianas, chartered by Marianas Air Travel, and maintained by Tinian Management Solutions, according to court documents.

Last Saturday afternoon or a day after Kennedy dismissed the case, a four-seat Piper PA28-140 Cherokee Cruiser plane of the Marianas Air Transfer experienced an engine problem during a sight-seeing tour of Saipan, but its pilot successfully landed the aircraft on the fairway of the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort in Kagman. No one was injured.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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