Families of victims killed in 2019 North Shore skydiving crash file lawsuit, demand jury trial

Local News

Oahu Parachute Center, Waialua, Hawaii, June 2019

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s been nearly two years since a skydive plane crash killed 11 people on Oahu’s North Shore, but that day will never be forgotten for the families of the deceased, as their fight for justice continues.

On Feb. 26, representatives for five of the plane crash victims filed a lawsuit on behalf of passenger parachutist Nikolas Glebov, tandem parachute instructor Daniel Herndon, cameramen Casey Williamson, and “fun jumpers” Joshua Drablos and Jordan Tehero.

The lawsuit was filed against Oahu Parachute Center and owner George Rivera, Hawaii Parachute Center, State of Hawaii, aircraft owner N80896, William Garcia, Robert Perez Seladis, as well as 70 individuals and entities who could not be identified by the plaintiffs.

According to the lawsuit, Oahu Parachute Center breached its duty of care through negligent acts by operating the plane in a reckless and unsafe manner, failing to maintain that the plane was in airworthy condition, failing to properly train pilots and mechanics of the plane, and other reasons.

The lawsuit alleges that prior to the plane crash on June 21, 2019, there had been complaints made to the state about the unsafe and dangerous skydiving operations being conducted by Oahu Parachute Center and Hawaii Parachute Center.

In 2019, Rivera talked openly about the tragedy in KHON’s Always Investigating segment, saying that he received verbal approval from the Department of Transportations (DOT) to operate skydiving activities. However, the lawsuit alleges that such verbal approval was contrary to governing rules.

The same plane had partially come apart in mid-air over the San Francisco Bay Area in 2016. According to the lawsuit, the plane underwent “major repair” while owned and operated by N80896, LLC, “individually and doing business under the fictitious name of Skydive Sacramento.”

Following the repair, the plane was leased to Hawaii Parachute Center and Rivera. From June 18, 2017 through June 21, 2019, the plane was operated in Hawaii.

Always Investigating asked Rivera why he leased that plane after it sustained great damage in California.

“Because when I first saw the airplane, it was disassembled in a hanger in California and they were rebuilding the entire empanage in the aircraft, rebuilt with brand new cables, the whole thing was being rebuilt,” Rivera said. “I thought to myself, this is a good airplane. First of all, the FAA would never have let it fly across the ocean if it wasn’t in tip top shape, they would never do it. So the airplane had to pass all its phase inspections.

The Federal Aviation Administration cleared Oahu Parachute Center to start taking passengers on it again, and the plane flew fine for years.

“You know, so it’s not like it was in bad shape, there was never any complaints during the entire operating procedure,” Rivera said. “To this day we don’t know exactly what happened.”

However, the lawsuit maintains even after the repair, the plane was still dangerous due to a list of conditions that made it unsafe to fly. The suit alleges that Seladis, one of the defendants, performed the repair and maintenance of that plane on numerous occasions during these years, and despite his repair work, the plane still crashed on June 21, 2019.

Always Investigating asked Rivera if he thinks anything could have been done differently that would have changed the fate of that day.

“I don’t know, I don’t think so,” Rivera said, “because our policies and our procedures that I put in place were right on.”

Representatives for the plane crash victims have demanded a jury trial on their behalf. KHON reached out to Rivera to comment on the lawsuit and did not receive a response.

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