Lawsuit against Blackwater aircraft operator can proceed

Jacksonville, FL_ A three-judge panel says a lawsuit can proceed against the operator of a plane that crashed in Afghanistan in 2004, killing three Army soldiers, including one from Oklahoma.

The contractor operating the plane, Presidential Airways, is the aviation subsidiary of North Carolina-based Blackwater USA.  It was based in Florida before moving to North Carolina.  Among those killed when the plane crashed into a mountain near the Iran border was Chief Warrant Officer Travis W. Grogan of Moore, Oklahoma.

Presidential had argued in an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that the lawsuit should be thrown out because the company was immune from prosecution because it was operating under a government contract.

The company also claimed the lawsuit should not go forward because it would involve one branch of government reviewing another branch's decision making.  The three judges rejected those claims in a ruling yesterday, upholding a lower court's ruling.

(Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)