Google cofounder Sergey Brin faces wrongful-death lawsuit from pilot's widow over fatal plane crash

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  • The widow of a pilot who died in a plane crash is suing Sergey Brin, a cofounder of Google.

  • The lawsuit claims Brin's plane was negligently fitted with an extra fuel tank for a trip to Fiji.

  • The suit also alleges that the billionaire intentionally delayed the search-and-rescue effort.

Sergey Brin, a cofounder of Google, is facing a wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from a plane crash last year that killed two crew members en route to a private island in the South Pacific.

The suit, which the pilot's widow, Maria Magdalena Olarte Maclean, filed, alleges that a plane Brin partly owned was improperly fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank for the long flight from California to Hawaii. A fuel-intake problem caused the fatal crash, which led to the death of the pilot, Lance Maclean, and his copilot, Dean Rushfeldt, the suit says.

The lawsuit also alleges Brin intentionally delayed the recovery process.

A spokesperson for Brin's family office said they were not able to comment on pending legal action.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of the crew piloting the De Havilland DHC6-400 Twin Otter airplane, and our sympathies remain with the families," the spokesperson said.

The complaint says that the plane took off from Santa Rosa, California, on May 20, 2023, bound for Fiji via Honolulu. The lawsuit says the pilots, who were the only ones on board, reported an issue with the fuel intake and turned back, declaring an emergency as they ran low on gas. The plane crashed into the sea.

A rescue swimmer found "the occupants still inside the plane, lifeless," and couldn't recover them without air tanks, The Los Angeles Times reported at the time. The bodies have not been recovered since then.

The suit identifies Brin, Google, and Bayshore Global Management — Brin's family office — as the "owner/operators" of the aircraft. Bayshore acknowledged ownership of the plane to the LA Times days after the incident.

The recovery efforts are a focus of the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges Brin promised to recover the bodies — but never intended to

In the complaint, it says that Olarte Maclean wants to give her husband a "Christian burial with military honors" but hasn't been able to because of failed recovery efforts.

"Brin is among the richest people in the world," the complaint says. "If he wanted to recover the aircraft and the remains of those lost, it would be done."

The complaint also alleges that Brin promised to, but never intended to, recover the bodies.

It specifically cited a comment from a Bayshores spokesperson to the LA Times two days after the crash, which said it was working to ensure "all available resources are ready to assist in the recovery efforts once weather and seas provide safer conditions."

In an email to Business Insider, Steven C. Marks of the Podhurst Orseck law firm, representing Olarte Maclean, said: "You can't possibly imagine how absolutely devastating it has been for Maggy. The recovery has always been her primary focus."

He added: "There is absolutely no excuse for why this has not occurred. Certainly, finances are not a legitimate issue."

The complaint says Brin's representatives told Olarte Maclean that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, refused to grant anybody permission to begin the recovery effort.

The NOAA refuted this, according to the suit, saying that the recovery effort did not require a permit.

After that, Olarte Maclean's complaint says Brin's representatives assured her that recovery of her husband's remains would come soon.

While the lawsuit does mention various recovery efforts Brin's team conducted, it alleges frequent and drawn-out delays.

Olarte Maclean alleges that Brin's representatives cited weather conditions at the crash site and their interactions with the Coast Guard as excuses.

Brin and his agents "made countless decisions that stalled and delayed the recovery, and then stalled and delayed it some more," the complaint says.

"Lance Maclean lies at the bottom of the ocean without a proper burial because the aircraft he was flying contains secrets defendants want hidden forever," the lawsuit said.

Along with Brin, the suit also names a California man who it claims served as the aviation director of the company responsible for maintaining the plane. The flight-charter company, which the lawsuit accuses of failing to file a flight plan as required, is also named as a defendant. Google, the aircraft-maintenance company Seafly LLC, its aviation director, and the flight-tester Southern Cross Aviation did not respond to BI's requests for comments.

The filing does not identify the flight's precise destination, referring only to "Brin's private island" in Fiji. BI was unable to verify if Brin owns an island. Google's other cofounder, Larry Page, owns Tavarua island in Fiji's Mamanuca archipelago, known for its white-sand beaches and surfing.

Olarte Maclean is seeking damages in excess of $150,000, citing severe emotional distress, and is also asking the court to order the aircraft's recovery.

Read the original article on Business Insider