Lawsuit: Republic Airport workers damaged plane during blizzard
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The operator of a twin-engine plane used mostly to transport multiple sclerosis patients to treatment has sued two companies that operate Republic Airport, claiming the Cessna 340 was damaged after airport employees tried to tow it out of a snowdrift.
Cezar Andrei Floroiu, the sole shareholder of Exigo -- a Manhattan-based company that owns the plane -- sued Farmingdale-based Flightways of Long Island Inc. and URS Corp., headquartered in San Francisco, for negligence.
The companies' workers tore the plane's tie-down hook and part of its tail section on Dec. 27, 2010, after trying to tow it from snow, according to the suit filed Dec. 23 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York.
Attempts to reach representatives from both companies were unsuccessful.
"It's like pulling a car from the bumper," said Floroiu, the pilot, adding that no patients were on the flight. "You know you're just going to take off the bumper."
The defendants acted in a "negligent manner" when they used a tow method that is prohibited by the Cessna 340 operating handbook, and without attempting easier and safer options, according to the suit.
Following a blizzard that brought 10 to 20 inches to parts of Long Island, the plane became stuck shortly after 6 p.m. upon exiting the runway onto the taxiway.
URS Corp. personnel advised Floroiu and his passengers to remain in the plane, while both companies tried to free the Cessna, according to the suit.
Floroiu and approximately three others waited in the cold and the dark for four hours, since the aircraft's battery had been drained, according to the suit. After witnessing the tow attempt, Floroiu exited the plane and directed a passenger to remove snow from one of the tires with a shovel. The passengers and workers then pushed the aircraft out of the snowdrift by hand, the suit said.
The suit seeks unspecified damages that Floroiu's attorney Benjamin Klein, of Manhattan-based The Klein Firm LLC, said would be a "five-figure number."
"There was just no willingness on the part of either defendant to compensate my client on the damages," Klein said. "They just sort of pointed the finger at one another."
The plane's damage rendered it unusable for more than two months, said Floroiu, causing him to lose momentum with Fly for MS -- an organization Floroiu founded in 2010 that flew to 31 countries to offer sightseeing flights to those affected by multiple sclerosis, raise funds and transport specialists and patients without access to care to hospitals for treatment."I got close to MS while investing in biotech companies that were developing [drugs] for MS," said Floroiu, a former Wall Street investor. "I was pretty impressed by the people who live with MS. It's such a terrible disease and they live with no cure. So, I thought I could do something about it."