The San Diego man who lost his wife, two daughters and mother-in-law when a military jet slammed into his home three years ago, is seeking some $56 million in compensation.
According to an Associated Press report, Don Yoon and his father-in-law turned to the legal system after what a representing attorney calls an “insulting” amount of money was offered by the U.S. government. The government placed the economic loss at $955,348 and did not reveal its amount for the non-economic damage.
A stricken F-18 jet crashed into the University City home on Dec. 8, 2008 after the pilot alerted officials that he needed to put the plane down somewhere, an accident that the Marine Corps has acknowledged was due to a mechanical failure and a series of errors
Yoon and his father-in-law, Sanghyun Lee, and Lee’s three adult children all sued the U.S. government. An attorney representing the family stated that Yoon is entitled to $25 million in noneconomic damages for the loss of his family. Lee should get $20 million, and the remaining family members $8.5 million.
Yoon lost his 36-year-old wife, Youngmi Lee Yoon; his 15-month-old daughter, Grace; his 2-month-old daughter, Rachel; and his 59-year-old mother-in-law, Seokim Kim Lee, who was visiting from Korea.
During testimony last week to determine a fair amount of compensation, Lee was asked if he and his wife of 37 years had plans. Looking directly at government attorneys and a Marine Corps counsel, Lee noted, “I did but you as a Navy took all my dreams away.”
According to the Marine Corps, the plane suffered a mechanical failure but a series of ill-informed decisions led the pilot — a student — to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed.
The pilot ejected and informed investigators he screamed in horror as he watched the jet plow into the San Diego neighborhood, incinerating a pair of homes.
Government attorneys have questioned how close Lee was to his daughter, noting that he had not visited her in four years in the United States and did not attend her wedding. They also questioned the plaintiffs’ calculations on the financial loss.
According to attorneys for the families, Youngmi Lee’s future income and her work at home would have been worth more than $2 million. She worked at a San Diego convalescent home but was trained as a nurse and was looking to get a position in her field after the legal U.S. resident mastered English.
The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and the Navy in the incident. Low oil pressure destroyed the jet’s first engine, and the second ceased working when fuel stopped flowing from the tank.
A final ruling from the judge on the exact amount of compensation is expected soon.
While there is no price on life, $56 million does seem more than a little high for something that was clearly an accident.