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Miami�The families of four Florida people killed in a 1999 air crash near Key West have been awarded $9.3 million after a jury found that a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., maintenance company failed to troubleshoot mechanical problems reported before the trip. After a four-week trial in Broward County, Fla., Circuit Court, the six-person jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before dismissing contentions by Cav-Air that pilot error was to blame for the crash on Oct. 30, 1999. Maintenance company Cav-Air has changed ownership since the accident. Killed in the crash were Haim Israeli, 54, his wife, Tova, 49, Gavriel Shade, 55, and his wife, Elfriede, 54. They were returning from a day trip to Key West where they celebrated the Israelis’ 30th wedding anniversary by attending Fantasy Fest. Minutes after takeoff, pilot Haim Israeli radioed that the Cessna 310 was having engine problems and was heading back to Key West. The plane took a radical left turn at 7,400 feet and plummeted into the Gulf of Mexico, 10 miles north of Key West. It took two weeks to find their bodies. The mashed fuselage was found in 25 feet of water. The maintenance company, which had a $5 million policy with insurer United States Aviation Insurance Group, turned down a $4 million settlement offer prior to trial. A counteroffer of $2 million was rejected by the plaintiffs. According to Steven C. Marks, a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami who represented the Israelis, the plaintiffs are also entitled to seek attorney fees. Joseph J. Slama, a partner at Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman & McKee in Fort Lauderdale, represented the Shades. The plaintiffs sued for negligence. The jury found the maintenance company 100% liable for $5,050,000 in damages to the Israeli estate and $4,280,000 to the Shade estate. Kenneth H. Laborde, a partner at Gieger, Laborde & Laperouse in New Orleans who represents U.S. Aviation Insurance of New York, served as lead trial attorney for the defense. He could not be reached for comment. Defense lawyer Dennis O’Hara, a partner at Wicker Smith O’Hara McCoy Graham & Ford in Fort Lauderdale who represented Cav-Air, also could not be reached.

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