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Lawsuits are filed against the estate of pilot in Santee plane crash that killed UPS driver from Ocean Beach

Dr. Sugata Das and UPS driver Steve Krueger were killed in the crash of Das' plane in Santee in October 2021.
(John Gastaldo)
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A couple who were badly injured last year when a plane crashed into their Santee home are among five families or companies that recently sued the estate of the pilot, a doctor who was flying home to San Diego from his job at a hospital in Yuma, Ariz.

Each of the five separate lawsuits claims negligence on the part of Dr. Sugata Das, a cardiologist who was killed in the October 2021 crash along with Ocean Beach resident Steve Krueger, 61, a UPS driver who was inside his delivery truck when it was struck by the plane.

The driver of a UPS delivery truck who was killed when a small plane crashed into a Santee neighborhood Oct. 11 was identified by his employer as Ocean Beach resident Steve Krueger, who worked at the company for nearly 30 years.

Three of the lawsuits also name as a defendant Samarth Aviation, an Arizona limited liability company that listed Das as its agent and apparently owned the Cessna C340 that crashed. Krueger’s siblings also are suing the pilot’s employer, Yuma Regional Medical Center, claiming the flight was within the doctor’s scope of employment because he commuted daily by air between San Diego and Yuma.

Those suing include Philip and Maria Morris, a couple in their 70s who were badly burned by the wreckage from the plane before neighbors rescued them from their blazing home.

A family of three who lived nearby have sued seeking damages both for emotional harm and the partial destruction of their home.

Two insurance companies also have sued in an attempt to recoup the cost of damage to homes that were struck by debris from the crash.

Santee neighbors describe rescue scene immediately after Cessna crashed into UPS truck and then struck two homes

Timothy Loranger, an attorney representing the Morrises, said it’s “been a long road” for his clients as they continue to heal from their injuries.

The crash was “such a major event in their lives and the lives of their neighbors,” Loranger said. “It’s the last thing anyone ever expects. So any work we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again, that would be a positive.”

Loranger said that through the lawsuit, he is trying to find out who was at fault. Was it primarily caused by pilot error? Were there preventable mechanical issues with the plane? Or was there some kind of plane component issue?

“We haven’t had the opportunity yet to look at the plane ourselves or see the final (National Transportation Safety Board) report,” Loranger said.

All five cases were initially filed in San Diego County Superior Court, but four have been moved to federal court at the behest of attorneys for Das’ estate. Those attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In instances like this, with multiple plaintiffs suing the same defendants, it’s likely the hearings will ultimately be combined, Loranger said.

Ocean Beach resident Steve Krueger's UPS delivery truck after it was hit by a crashing plane in Santee in October 2021
Ocean Beach resident Steve Krueger’s damaged UPS delivery truck is pictured after it was hit by a crashing plane in Santee in October 2021.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The lawsuits offer no new details about the crash, which happened around 12:15 p.m. Oct. 11 last year in a residential neighborhood just east of Santana High School. The crash remains under investigation by federal authorities.

But the lawsuits spell out some of the damage caused by the crash.

The Morrises’ lawsuit claims they both suffered severe burns and permanent injuries that continue to negatively affect their lives and cost them medical expenses.

One family whose home was damaged has relocated to Alaska, claiming in the lawsuit that their minor daughter “suffered severe emotional trauma” and continues to require the services of a physician and therapists. An attorney for the family did not respond to a request for comment.

One of the houses damaged by debris belonged to Home of Guiding Hands, a nonprofit that operates 31 group homes across East County serving people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Its insurer is seeking to recoup more than $105,000 for property damage.

The insurance company that covered another damaged home is seeking to recoup more than $27,000.


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