ADDISON, Texas—A North Texas woman is taking a flight company that operates out of Addison Airport to court after she was involved in a crash in August.
On August 18, Jessica Perez got into a Thrust Flight aircraft with her friend to take a tour of the metro. Perez said that her friend surprised her with the tour because she was celebrating a new career milestone. According to Perez, her friend booked the flight using Groupon.
The 32-year-old mother of three said she’d never flown in a small plane before and had no idea she was buckling up for a nightmare. “It’s crazy to think that something you don’t expect to change your life, changes your life forever,” Perez said.
Newly released security video shows Perez’s plane climbing in altitude after takeoff. “I was still looking out the window, and I was like ‘oh my god we’re going to fly,’” Perez said.
But as the video continues, you see the plane stall during its ascent and then crash into the ground. “I don’t remember anything after that,” Perez said. The pilot, Perez, and her friend were all hospitalized.
Perez’s injuries are horrific, to say the least. Her thumb was detached and had to be sewn back onto her hand, her right arm and back were broken. She had 23 staples placed in her head, and 40 staples placed on her back.
She also suffered a punctured lung, was left severely bruised all over her body, and fractured her sternum and clavicle. And we’re not even at the worst part yet.
According to Perez and her attorney, the plane crash-landed next to a sewer ditch. They say that when Perez broke her arm, bacteria entered the wound. That bacteria started to eat the flesh off her arm, and most of her skin had to be removed.
The dressing must be changed daily, and Perez said it’s like someone is taking a knife and shaving her skin every single time. “They’ve had to cut so much off my arm, and the dressing changes are so painful,” Perez said. “I just cried, who wants to see half of their arm gone?”
So far, Perez’s medical bills have exceeded a million dollars.
TWO CRASHES IN LESS THAN 6 MONTHS
The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating Perez’s crash, but it’s also investigating another crash involving Thrust Flight in March. At the time, the company was operating under the name US Sport Aircraft.
Fort Worth resident Seema Shaik was involved in the March crash as a passenger. She said that she wanted to see Texas from the air, so she and her husband paid for separate flights with US Sport Aircraft through Groupon.
But after taking off, a preliminary NTSB report shows that the pilot experienced a vapor lock with the fuel pump and radioed to the control tower that she needed to make an emergency landing. A vapor lock is when fuel changes state from a liquid to a gas while in the delivery system.
The plane ended up crashing between a taxiway and a runway at the airport. Shaik told WFAA in August that she feared she was going to die. “I did not have that much time to think you know,” Shaik said. “I knew that we were going down—I just thought about my family.”
She received second-degree burns to her back, broke both legs and ankles, her neck, ribs, hand, and back. Shaik said that she also got a concussion that was so bad—that she says she can no longer smell or taste things.
Right now, she can’t walk—and there’s a good chance she may lose her right foot because her talus bone is dead. Her medical bills, she says, are over half-a-million dollars.
Perez is now suing Thrust Flight/US Sport Aircraft and its owners. In a lawsuit filed last week, it claims Perez’s pilot failed, “to perform necessary calculations from the performance charts and weight and balance sheets applicable to N893JA before departure.”
It also alleges that the pilot, “performed virtually no pre-flight on the subject aircraft prior to departure.”
It continues claiming that the pilot, “departed with a tailwind which is grossly negligent.” The lawsuit also says this is the third catastrophic crash for the company in under three years.
And at this moment, WFAA discovered that Thrust Flight is still offering tours—but no longer offering deals through Groupon.
Attorney Ron McCallum, who is also an experienced pilot, wants the FAA to pull Thrust Flight out of the air. “The FAA is going to have to make a decision whether or not public safety overrides this company’s ability to operate and turn a buck,” McCallum said.
“Their last two crashes have fortunately been on airport grounds. The next one they have could be in the air over someone’s house.”
McCallum is also representing Shaik—but has not filed a lawsuit on her behalf yet.
An attorney representing Thrust Flight/US Sport Aircraft sent WFAA a statement regarding the suit Thursday afternoon. It reads, “We are saddened by this accident and are working closely with the FAA and NTSB to support their investigation. NTSB rules do not permit us to discuss any aspects of the investigation. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals who were injured.”