Family Awarded $17.8M From Military Jet Crash
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Aired 12/28/11 on KPBS News.
Family members of four people killed when a Marine fighter jet crashed into their University City home three years ago will get $17.8 million in damages for their deaths.
A federal judge ordered the military Wednesday to pay millions to the survivors of relatives killed when a fighter jet crashed into their San Diego home. The award came after a three-day trial.
The Marine Corps F-18 Hornet crashed into a University City home as it tried for an emergency landing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar three years ago. The student pilot had lost an engine.
While the government admitted it was at fault, it disputed the amount it should pay the family.
Survivors filed suit, seeking $56 million in compensation. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller awarded the family about $18 million.
Don Yoon, who lost his wife and two young children, was awarded $10 million. Yoon’s father-in-law, who also lost his wife in the fiery crash, was awarded $4 million. The remainder went to the father-in-law’s three grown children, who lost their mother.
Family attorney Brian Panish said the survivors forgive the pilot. He read from a statement from Don Yoon:
“I still harbor no ill will against the United States Marine Corps pilot involved in this crash who did everything he could to prevent this tragedy.”
Lawyers for the Department of Justice indicated they will not appeal the judgment, Panish said.
Don Yoon lost his 36-year-old wife, Youngmi Lee Yoon; his 15-month-old daughter, Grace; his 2-month-old daughter, Rachel; and his 59-year-old mother-in-law, Seokim Kim Lee, who was visiting from Korea to help her eldest daughter take care of their children.
Yoon broke down crying throughout his testimony, which came three years to the day when he buried his wife and baby girls in the same casket. He told the judge he only looks forward to the day when he can join them.
Department of Justice attorneys offered their condolences during the trial, but questioned how much the family members depended on each other. The law does not allow victims to be compensated for grief, suffering or punitive damages.
The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and the Navy for errors leading to the tragedy.