Pilot Who Survived Fiery Plane Crash That Killed Friend Files Lawsuit

A Vietnam War-era T28 military trainer and single-engine Cessna collided at the airport about 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles

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A man who spent weeks in a coma before recovering from injuries in a fiery plane crash that killed his student and friend has filed a lawsuit saying the crash could have been prevented.

Pilot and instructor Ryan Davis said he's filing a lawsuit over a crash that happened last March at the Compton Woodley Airport, leaving the student pilot dead and him in a coma.

"My face was burnt, my arms are burnt, my legs are burnt," Davis said.

Just before 7 p.m. Davis was in the passenger seat of a Cessna airplane, his student pilot at the controls, when he says the pair announced they were coming in for a landing. They found an open runway and touched down safely.

"He did everything perfect," Davis said of his student pilot who has not been publicly named.

But then another plane unexpectedly landed behind them, hitting their aircraft.

"I don't remember the impact," Davis said. "The propeller came in, hit the left fuel tank and blew up the airplane."

Davis says the 84-year old pilot in a military training plane did not check to see if the runway was clear and never let anyone know he was landing.

The communication lapse is documented in an incident report from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department obtained by the NBC4 I-Team.

The report states the pilot told an investigator he had not used the airport's frequency, saying, "He had not because the radio is so low on the panel and the small numbers are difficult for him to read …"

Airports such as Compton Woodley do not have a control tower. A Federal Aviation Administration advisory says pilots should communicate with each other directly by radio. The pilot of the military plane, Ross Diehl, is now charged with involuntary manslaughter and careless and reckless operation of aircraft.

Davis is now also suing Diehl, accusing him of negligence.

"He violated a lot of very standard rules and he killed a man," said Dave Ring, Davis' attorney. "And he seriously hurt Ryan Davis because of outrageously reckless actions."

Diehl's attorney declined to comment about the case, but said in a statement that, "This tragic accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board which has yet to determine the probable cause.

"This matter is also the subject of litigation and it would be inappropriate and premature to comment on as-yet unproven allegations."

Also named in Davis' lawsuit are the military plane's owner, LA County, and the City of Compton, all of whom did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Davis hopes the tragedy will lead to better communication between pilots at small airports.

"I'm hoping that there can be a change that prevents this," he said. "Or at least reduces the chances of this happening again."

Davis said recovery has been difficult. The young father tries to find moments of relief in his painful recovery by enjoying the times he can sit at the piano with his baby girl. He hopes to eventually get back to his passion and his livelihood.

"Every time I think about it, I get chills," he said.

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