Yeager Airport sued over landslide

Theodore Carter and Rebecca Carter, a Charleston couple is suing the Central Regional West Virginia Airport Authority, the Triad Engineering Inc., the Cast & Baker Corporation and the Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company for damages they sustained during the March landslide at the Yeager Airport.[1]

The complaint filed on June 1 in Kanawha Circuit Court Airport states that employees had first noticed cracks in the safety area on Runway 5 in June or July 2013. It is claimed that thereafter, Triad was contacted and both, the airport and Triad identified that there were cracks in the engineered material arresting system (EMAS) which would only worsen if not repaired. The EMAS is essentially a runaway truck ramp for planes. Thus, a survey of the area was performed by Triad, where it measured and assessed the cracks, comparing its findings with a 2009 survey, after completing the paving of the safety-overrun area.

Post survey, Triad recommended additional monitoring of the area and in July 2014, 28 monitoring points were installed along the surface and sides of the embankment. The complaint shows that each one of the points showed movement between July and August 2014, indicating worsening of problems. It is also alleged that in September 2014, Triad made recommendations to the airport that involved performing work on the EMAS, but the airport did not follow the recommendations. As alleged, there was no public announcement of these cracks, thus keeping the public uninformed about the catastrophe that was about to take place.

The EMAS inspection reports had long identified the worsening problems and on January 2015, a representative of Keystone Apostolic Church, expressed their concern about the slip and its stability in that area to Terry Sayre, the Assistant Airport Director. Although, Triad initiated a “subsurface” investigation between March 8 and March 12 to evaluate the fill movement, neither Triad nor the Airport did anything to fix these growing problems.

Given the negligence of the authorities, on March 12, the EMAS collapsed resulting in a landslide, thus making plaintiffs devoid of their “worldly possessions as a result of the ‘failure of the mechanically stabilized earth retention structure.’”

Moreover, plaintiffs have sued Nationwide for breach of contract by refusing to pay the Carters’ claim. The plaintiffs claim negligence and violation of duties of reasonable care against the defendants, and are consequently seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. The case will be looked into by Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Meanwhile and prior to plaintiff’s suit, Yeager Airport filed a lawsuit on May 22 against 20 companies, including Triad and Cast & Baker that had been involved in the design and construction of its runway extension project. The Airport alleged an act of negligence and breach of contract against those companies indicating improper design, improper testing, improper inspection and improper monitoring.

[1] Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-1074

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