Plane crash bystander files suit

Man who helped on scene of accident claims injuries against pilots, mechanics

A Greenwood man has filed a lawsuit saying he was injured when he tried to help remove two men from a plane that crashed into a neighborhood in 2014.

Stanley Breeden’s lawsuit is against the family of a pilot killed in a 2014 crash, the co-pilot who was injured and two companies that previously had worked on the plane’s engine.

Breeden was driving along Main Street in Greenwood on July 11, 2014, when the plane crashed into a neighborhood after taking off from the municipal airport.

Pilot William Gilliland was killed, and his co-pilot, Michael Elliott of Florida, was seriously injured. Breeden and other bystanders pulled Elliott from the burning plane. They tried to rescue Gilliland from the wreckage but were unable to reach him.

Gilliland was a Center Grove area resident who worked as a vice president for Simon Property Group and attended SS. Francis & Clare Roman Catholic Church and worked with the church to start its private school years ago.

Breeden’s lawsuit said he suffered serious, permanent injury, pain and suffering, mental and emotional upset and lost wages. The lawsuit filing did not specify what injuries Breeden suffered. At the time, Breeden said he had twisted his knee, which was still healing from meniscus surgery.

His attorney, Ashley Dayhuff, declined to comment.

Allegations made in a civil lawsuit are the opinion of the person filing and can be disproven at trial.

The lawsuit sites the investigation done by the National Transportation Safety Board after the crash, which listed the cause of the accident as a partial loss of engine power, the reasons for which could not be determined by examining the engine, and the pilot’s decision to continue takeoff despite early indications of engine issues, according to the federal report.

According to the report, the plane crashed shortly after 2 p.m. The pilot had planned to fly to Texas from Greenwood for an annual inspection and for the pilot to receive instrument flight instruction during the flight. Before taking off, the pilot had lost the clearance needed to take off due to a delay in time, but he and the co-pilot discussed how to address that situation, the report said.

Witnesses said the plane sounded fine while it was taxiing and leading up to takeoff, but some reported seeing blue smoke and hearing odd noises, such as a popping sound or the engine running loud when it began takeoff. Some saw the nose of the plane lower, and they thought it would land, but instead it rose higher into the air. The plane crashed shortly after taking off, striking two homes and a garage about a half-mile from the airport, the report said.

The engine of the plane had been repaired the year before, and the local mechanic at the Greenwood airport said he had serviced the oxygen system before takeoff and that the airplane sounded fine that day, the report said.

Investigators inspected the engine after the crash, and tests were also done, but due to the damage from the crash, they were unable to find any issues that would have caused the engine to fail that day, the report said.

Breeden’s lawsuit names both Elliott and the estate of Gilliland, along with Groh Aviation and Poplar Grove Airmotive, which did work on the plane’s engine, the lawsuit said.

Breeden asked for the case to go to a jury trial. Attorneys for the other parties were not available.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.