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Attorney: Lawsuit May Expose Details of Cargo Plane Crash

May 5, 1990

MIAMI (AP) _ A pilot’s relatives sought $3 million in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Friday in the crash of a plane once rumored to be linked to covert shipments to Central America.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges air traffic controllers in Houston misdirected pilot George Reti away from an airstrip as the DC-6A plane ran low on fuel on a flight from El Salvador.

The July 20, 1988, crash in a Louisiana bayou killed Reti and two crew members.

Some speculated at the time that the flight could have been involved in supplying Contra rebels in Nicaragua. No connection ever has been established, said attorney John Eversole, who represents ex-wife Regina Reti and her daughter.

″Maybe we’ll eventually learn the truth about this flight,″ Eversole said. ″It seems the full story about this incident has never come out.″

The flight, which originated in Miami, left San Salvador and was scheduled to stop in New Orleans before returning to Miami. The plane was operated by TACA International Airlines, the Salvadoran national airline, and registered to Miami-based Universal Air Equipment Leasing Inc., the suit said.

Speculation was prompted by the route, and fed by both companies’ refusal to reveal details of the flight.

Found amid the wreckage in the Mississippi delta was about $650,000 worth of electronic components, women’s lingerie and iced fish, said Eversole.

The crew reported to Houston air traffic controllers that the plane was running low on fuel and would be unable to reach New Orleans International Airport, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The flight was directed to Leeville, La., about 50 miles south of New Orleans, and told there was a 3,000-foot runway for an emergency landing. But the airstrip actually was in Leesville, La., about 160 miles away near the Texas border.

″It’s clear they said, ‘Leeville.’ It was a mistake that cost the lives of three people,″ said Eversole.

Killed along with Reti, 39, was his co-pilot, Keith LaFever, and flight engineer, Steven Herreros. There were no passengers.

The suit names the U.S. government as defendant, claiming employees of the FAA were negligent and failed to follow proper procedures.

A $3 million claim filed with the FAA by Mrs. Reti was rejected last year.

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