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Published: Monday, 6/7/2010

Oak Harbor doctor added to lawsuit in fatal air crash


An Oak Harbor physician who signed off on Gene Damschroder's airman medical certificate a year before a plane crash that killed the 86-year-old pilot and five passengers has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Dr. Jerome McTague, who also is the Ottawa County coroner, was named as a defendant in the suit filed last year by the victims' family members. The complaint seeks more than $15 million from David Damschroder, executor of the Gene Damschroder estate, as well as the International Association of Lions Clubs, Fremont Noon Lions Club, and several club members.

Killed in the June, 8, 2008, crash were Bill Ansted, 62, and his daughter, Allison, 23, both of Lindsey, Ohio; Matt Clearman, 25, of Maumee, who was Ms. Ansted's fiance, and Danielle Gerwin, 31, and her daughter, Emily, 4, both of Gibsonburg.

All had paid for an airplane ride with Mr. Damschroder from the Fremont-area airport he operated during a "Drive-In/Fly-In Break-fast" that was sponsored by the Lions Club chapter.

The lawsuit cites an April 15 probable-cause report from the National Transportation Safety Board that blamed the pilot's failure to control the plane as the crash's primary cause.

Contributing to the accident, the report said, was the pilot's "poor judgment in continuing to fly with his severe visual deficiency." The report further said an additional contributing factor "was the aviation medical examiner's failure to accurately assess and report the pilot's visual deficiency."

"According to the findings of the NTSB, Mr. Damschroder's vision was so limited that he never should have been cleared by the medical examiner to fly," said Dale Emch, a Toledo attorney representing family members. "The NTSB determined that the doctor's failure to assess Mr. Damschroder's severe vision problems contributed to the accident."

Dr. McTague is also a deputy coroner in Sandusky County; co-founder of Physicians Choice Hospital in Fremont, and a partner at Skiver & Associates law firm in Perrysburg Township.

Stephen Skiver, who heads the Perrysburg Township firm and has spoken on Dr. McTague's behalf, was not available for comment Friday.

The case is pending before Judge Stacy Cook.

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