E.t seldom happens in a court case that everyone involved feels sorry for the accused – especially when he is responsible for the deaths of three people. In the process that ended on Thursday in front of the Fulda Regional Court with a guilty verdict for negligent homicide in three cases, that was the case. The lawyer of the co-plaintiff said in his pleading: “The pity and the suffering were constant companions in this process.” He did not apply for a specific punishment. His client was about clarification. The man lost his wife and two children.
The defendant shot a Cessna over the runway of the airfield on the Wasserkuppe in October 2018. On a sidewalk behind it, the light aircraft captured and killed the mother with her twelve-year-old daughter and her eleven-year-old son. The public prosecutor’s office initially accused the pilot of having overloaded the 160 hp aircraft when it landed. However, this turned out to be wrong during the process: Although the machine was at least eight kilograms too heavy when it took off in Mannheim, it was not longer when it landed because enough gasoline had been consumed.
The defense had therefore suggested that the proceedings be discontinued subject to conditions. The judge ruled that out at the start of the last day of the trial. A judgment for negligent homicide should still be considered. And in the case of this criminal offense, proceedings will only be discontinued if the victim was partly to blame for the misfortune or if the perpetrator was “simply failing in the moment”. “Neither is the case here,” said the judge. In addition, it is about three deaths, which is a particularly difficult case. The court must determine the responsibility of a pilot and manifest it outwardly – also as a signal to other pilots.
“He should have started earlier”
So the prosecutor could begin his plea. He first reconstructed the accident: The defendant met with three friends in Mannheim to fly with them in the Cessna of a flight club to the Wasserkuppe. The plane came back from a flight at noon. The defendant asked his co-pilot to refuel it – and advised him not to “fill it up under any circumstances” so that it would not be too heavy. According to an expert, it was “slightly overloaded” at the start. The defendant said at the trial that he was aware that he was at the upper limit of what was allowed. The public prosecutor, himself a hobby pilot, said it a little more clearly: “With four people on board, an airplane with a 160 HP engine flies like a wet sack.”
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