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Children of Ricky Nelson File Suit Over Father’s Death

August 29, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The four children of the late Ricky Nelson sued three companies Thursday in connection with the plane crash that killed the singer, his fiancee and five others.

The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court on behalf of Sam Hillard, Tracy, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, asks for unspecified general and punitive damages from Century Equipment Co. of West Los Angeles, Duncan Aviation of Lincoln, Neb., and Midland Ross Corp. of Columbus, Ohio.

Nelson’s former wife, Kristin, who divorced him in 1981, is listed as 11- year-old Sam’s guardian. The other children are adults.

The lawsuit is the fifth filed over the Dec. 31 crash that killed Nelson, 45, his fiancee, Helen Blair, 27, four band members and a sound man. Relatives of other victims filed the four earlier lawsuits.

Nelson and the band were en route to Dallas for a New Year’s Eve concert when the pilot radioed that the cabin was filled with smoke and he was making an emergency landing. The pilot and co-pilot survived.

The lawsuit claims the in-flight fire that forced the plane to land in a pasture near DeKalb, Texas, started near the cabin heater, which has been mentioned as the possible cause of the accident.

No official cause has been determined by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The lawsuit contends Century Equipment negligently leased the plane as co- owner with Nelson’s estate despite knowing that the DC-3 contained a design defect, which the lawsuit didn’t specify.

The NTSB has said Nelson bought the plane from the company in May 1985, but that legal title papers could not be found.

Telephone calls to Century were not returned Thursday. Lawyer Daniel Cathcart, who filed the lawsuit, is out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Midland Ross, which has been identified in another lawsuit related to the crash as the manufacturer of the gas heater, is accused of designing and installing a faulty cabin heater. Telephone calls to the company after business hours were unanswered.

The lawsuit also contends that Duncan Aviation negligently inspected and certified the jet as airworthy. Calls to Duncan headquarters Thursday night were unanswered.

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