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Investigation concludes in death of California pilot

Air Force officials have concluded their investigation into the death of a California man who was injured and killed in an aviation accident. Experts who examined the evidence found that that pilot experienced a condition known as spatial disorientation during his flight which caused him to become confused and to make the decision to exit the aircraft in unsafe conditions, in this case over a body of water.

The aviation accident took place in another country during an Air Force training exercise. A spokesperson for the Air Force said that the experience of spatial disorientation can happen to any pilot at any time, indicating that it is a hazard of the job. There were other factors at play that led to the spatial disorientation, including the weather conditions at the time of the accident, the rate of speed of the aircraft, and other factors.

In cases like this one where it does not seem that any particular party is at fault for the death and there was little that could have been done to prevent it, the family will likely recover in the form of survivors benefits through the Air Force. These types of benefits are often available for high-risk occupations and are created through the agreement between the employee and the employer. In the case of the United States Military, service members make specific agreements on this issue when they sign on for duty. In other cases where there is no agreement on this issue, workers compensation can provide benefits for families who have lost a loved one who was on the job when an aviation accident occurred. 

Source: KPBS, “Spatial Disorientation Caused F-16 Crash That Killed California Air Force Pilot,” Beth Ford Roth, Oct. 30, 2013. 

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