Pilot who survived San Diego plane crash that killed 2 files lawsuit

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LOS ANGELES — The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed into a San Diego home in 2017, killing two passengers, is suing the owner of the aircraft and those allegedly responsible for its maintenance.

Joshua Reikes’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants Altitude Aircraft Inc., identified as the Los Angeles-based owner of the 1995 Beechcraft Bonanza, and Solano Aircraft Services, which tested and serviced the plane, according to the complaint.

The suit, filed Dec. 10, alleges negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, products liability and breach of warranty. Reikes, of Torrance, seeks unspecified damages.

An Altitude Aviation representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The suit blames the crash in part on the plane’s two magnetos, which are part of the ignition system that produces a spark in the engine’s cylinders. The suit alleges the magnetos were defective.

Reikes left Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2017, with three passengers aboard, then quickly began dealing with engine problems, according to media reports at the time.

Reikes tried to land in a schoolyard, but the plane crashed into a home in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, according to earlier reports.

Michael Zareski, 46, owner of Western Veterinary Group in Torrance, was killed, along with 50-year-old Robert Stelling. Both had attended a veterinary conference at the San Diego Convention Center, according to media reports.

Reikes and Stelling’s wife, Dawn Stelling, were badly hurt in a post-crash fire, according to the lawsuit.

Reikes was a pilot for Sun Country Airlines who had begun working for the carrier two months prior to the crash, according to media reports.

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