Couple files suit over Yeager Airport landslide

By The West Virginia Record | Jun 9, 2015



CHARLESTON – A Charleston couple is suing Central Regional West Virginia Airport Authority for damages they sustained during the March landslide at Yeager Airport.

Triad Engineering Inc., Cast & Baker Corporation and Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company were also named as defendants in the suit.

Airport employees first noticed a problem with the safety area on Runway 5 in June or July 2013, when cracks began to appear, according to a complaint filed June 1 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Theodore Carter and Rebecca Carter claim after the airport noticed the cracks, its officials contacted Triad and both the airport and Triad identified that there were cracks in the engineered material arresting system and that it would only worsen if not repaired.

In 2013, Triad surveyed the area, measuring and assessing the cracks and comparing its findings with a survey that had been done in 2009, after paving of the safety-overrun area was completed.

Triad recommended additional monitoring of the area and in July 2014, a year after the cracks first appeared, Triad installed 28 monitoring points along the surface and sides of the embankment. Every one of the points showed movement between July and August 2014, indicating worsening problems, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim the cracks were not announced publicly, thus keeping the public uninformed about the catastrophe that was about to occur because of the inaction of the airport and Triad.

In September, Triad made recommendations to the airport that involved performing work on the EMAS fill itself, but the airport did not follow the recommendations, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim the EMAS inspection reports identified the worsening problems and on Jan. 13, Terry Sayre, the assistant airport director, spoke with a representative of Keystone Apostolic Church, and the representative of the church told Sayre they were concerned about the slip and its stability.

On March 8, Triad began a "subsurface" investigation to evaluate the fill movement, but neither Triad nor the Airport ever did anything to fix the worsening problems, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim on March 10, settlement of the southernmost corner of the fill became more pronounced and Triad immediately notified airport officials.

On March 11, Airport Director Rick Atkinson called an emergency board meeting because of the impending catastrophe, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim on March 12, the EMAS collapsed and a landslide occurred, causing them, to lose most of their "worldly possessions as a result of the 'failure of the mechanically stabilized earth retention structure.'"

Rebecca Carter was raised in the home on Keystone Drive and had many fond memories of the home, according to the suit.

The defendants are liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiffs, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants were negligent and violated their duties of reasonable care.

Nationwide breached its contract with the plaintiffs by its refusal to pay the Carters' claim, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Christopher J. Heavens of Heavens Law Firm PLLC.

On March 12, 130 homes were evacuated after a large portion of the hillside slip into Two Mile Creek. One home and Keystone Apostolic Church were destroyed, while many other houses were damaged by flooding.

Residents were given hotel vouchers and stayed in hotels for some time after the landslide.

On May 22, Yeager Airport filed a lawsuit against 20 companies involved with the design and construction of its runway extension project, alleging negligence and breach of contract.

Triad and Cast & Baker were also named as defendants in that lawsuit as well.

The airport claims the runway extension and the man-made hillside that supported it were improperly designed, improperly tested, not properly inspected and not properly monitored.

The airport hired lawyers from three local firms, Scott Segal, Timothy Bailey and Anthony Majestro, to file the lawsuit jointly on its behalf.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said Monday the county still is doing everything it can to pay the victims of the landslide.

"I think we've gone above and beyond trying to get everybody paid," he said. "Had these insurance companies stood up and did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn't have this situation."

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-1074

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