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Family of man killed in Arizona plane crash sues MGM Resorts, pilots

Nearly two years after a plane headed for Las Vegas crashed and killed all six people on board, the family of a social media influencer has filed a civil lawsuit against the pilots, the aircraft’s owner and MGM Resorts International.

Anand Anil Patel, a 26-year-old Oklahoma concert and club promoter, was on board the plane to promote MGM hotels and casinos on social media, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Clark County District Court.

The complaint did not indicate whether he was invited to Las Vegas by the resort company.

Contacted Monday about the lawsuit, MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong stated: “We were not aware of this tragedy until the complaint was filed. We do not have any information regarding the facts described in the complaint at this time. We are looking into this further to determine why MGM Resorts was identified as a defendant.”

The lawsuit alleges a student pilot from Las Vegas, James Pedroza, 28, and a pilot trainer, Erik Valente, 32, violated federal aviation regulations and operated the Piper PA-24 Comanche that crashed shortly after takeoff in Scottsdale, Arizona, in April 2018.

Patel, Pedroza, and Valente died in the crash, along with Instagram model Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23, Helena Lagos, 22, and Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia, 23. Lagos was an international business student at UNLV.

Last year, Coogan’s parents also filed suit in Las Vegas. Litigation in that case is on hold until a final report from the National Transportation Safety Board is released, according to court records.

The lawsuits also name Blake Brooksby as an owner of the plane.

Pedroza was seated in the front of the plane, which was headed for North Las Vegas Airport, and had cocaine in his system, according to an Arizona Republic story that cited a Maricopa County medical examiner’s office report.

The lawsuits cited regulations prohibiting “using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety.”

A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary accident report did not list a cause of the crash but stated that runway surveillance video captured the airplane’s wings “rocking during and shortly after rotation.”

The plane crashed on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course — the sister to the Stadium Course where the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open is held each February.

After the crash, the president of Las Vegas’ All In Aviation flight school recalled Valente as an experienced pilot.

According to a pilot biography page on All In Aviation’s website, Valente, who was independently contracted by the school, began flight training when he was 16 at Rancho High School’s aviation academy. He received his private pilot certificate before he graduated.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Coogan’s family, Christopher Jorgensen, a lawyer for Brooksby, Valente and Pedroza denied the allegations.

Brooksby “was not flying the aircraft, nor present in, or near the aircraft when it crashed, and had no control over its operation at the time of the accident,” Jorgensen wrote in a court brief.

Valente and Pedroza “did or attempted to do what a reasonably careful person would have done under the same or similar circumstances,” the lawyer wrote.

Reached Monday, Jorgensen declined to comment on Patel’s suit, saying he had not seen it.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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