Family seeks $20 million in Travis air show death
By DARRELL SMITH | The Sacramento Bee | Published: July 17, 2014
The family of the veteran stunt pilot killed during an air show at Travis Air Force Base in May is seeking $20 million in damages from the federal government, claiming emergency crews did not respond quickly enough to free him from his burning aircraft.
Eddie Andreini, 77, of Half Moon Bay, died May 4 at the base near Fairfield when his vintage Boeing E75 Stearman biplane crashed, skidded into a field and burst into flames as he attempted an upside-down pass over the runway during Travis’ “Thunder Over Solano” air show. The event – the first in three years at the air force base – was cut short by the tragedy.
The law firm Danko Meredith of Redwood Shores filed three wrongful death claims totaling $20 million Tuesday on behalf of Andreini’s wife, Linda, and sons Eddie Andreini Jr. and Mario Andreini. The claims are a precursor to a lawsuit.
“Mr. Andreini died as a result of the rescue and firefighting services’ failure to extinguish the fire and rescue Mr. Andreini from the aircraft in a timely or reasonable manner,” stated the claim submitted to Travis’ 60th Air Mobility Wing.
Travis Air Force Base officials declined to comment Wednesday.
Andreini, a veteran of nearly 1,000 air shows, died in the flames while he was trapped in the downed aircraft and waiting for firefighters to arrive, according to a Solano County coroner’s autopsy report obtained by The Bee.
“When Eddie’s aircraft came to rest, Eddie was unhurt,” family attorney Michael S. Danko said in a statement, adding that crew members and fellow pilots heard him call over the radio that he was fine but was trapped and needed help.
“Had the fire trucks responded as they were supposed to,” Danko wrote, “Eddie would be alive today.”
National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded in a May preliminary report that it took fire crews three to four minutes to arrive to extinguish the blaze after the accident. Danko said Air Force regulations require that emergency trucks be positioned to respond to a scene within 60 seconds.
Spectators, including a photographer who captured images of Andreini’s routine and crash, criticized emergency crews’ response to the wreck. They said as many as five minutes elapsed between the time Andreini’s biplane crashed and fire crews arrived.
“He should be in the hospital with second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. Instead, he’s at the coroner’s office,” said Roger Bockrath of Davis, a retired photojournalist, after the crash. “It’s shocking to me how long it took. I’m still rattled by it.”