The estate of Ted Christopher, the famed NASCAR driver, filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the estate of the Long Island man piloting the plane when the two were killed in a 2017 crash.
Christopher's estate is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, alleging that the pilot and owner of the plane, Charles Patrick Dundas, 81, of Hauppauge, failed to properly maintain the plane before it went down.
The plane, a Mooney M20C aircraft, experienced a total loss of engine power on a flight from Robertson Field Airport in Plainville, Connecticut, to a Westhampton Beach airport, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.
The pair took off about 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2017, and was last recorded on a U.S. Air Force radar in New York about 20 minutes later.
According to the NTSB, a red cotton shop towel caught up in a fuel valve led to a loss of engine power and the plane's low altitude at the time, between 900 to 1,300 feet, gave the pilot little opportunity to trouble shoot the issue.
The plane "struck 75-foot tall pine trees in a steep descending altitude before coming to rest up against trees in a nose down position on its right side," authorities said. Investigators believe that Dundas was aiming for an open field about 1,500 feet from the trees on the North Branford-Guilford border near New Haven.
When investigators took the fuel system apart, they found the red fibers consistent with a shop towel in a fuel valve. The NTSB also reported discovering remnants of a homemade PVC pipe tool in the wreckage. Investigators believe this tool was designed to manipulate the fuel selector between the left and right tanks.
The lawsuit against Dundas's estate contends that Christopher's estate believes that Dundas informed Christopher that the plane was safe to fly and did not warn him of "the aircraft's inadequacies and mechanical defects, including the failure to maintain and/or repair the Aircraft in a proper mechanical condition for a safe flight …"
Federal investigators said they were unable to locate the maintenance records for the plane after the deadly crash.
The lawsuit further alleges that Dundas, on or before the day of the crash, improperly maintained or repaired the airplane at his hangar at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, leaving a red towel in the fuel system.
Both men had flown together for about a decade and had taken that same route a number of times in the past.
Christopher, 59 when he died, lived with his wife in Southington, Connecticut, and was remembered by many in the racing community for more than 35 years behind the wheel.
He was the all-time winningest driver at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, and had amassed the third-most wins all time in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
It was not immediately clear from federal court filings if Dundas's estate had an attorney.
With Newsday Staff