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Sun, Dec. 15

No criminal charges filed against paraglider in Airfest crash

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office will not file criminal charges against the Cornville man who crashed his motorized para-glider into a hot air balloon during the Oct. 16, 2010 Cottonwood Airport Airfest. Ritchie said he flew close to the balloon in order to take pictures of it.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office will not file criminal charges against the Cornville man who crashed his motorized para-glider into a hot air balloon during the Oct. 16, 2010 Cottonwood Airport Airfest. Ritchie said he flew close to the balloon in order to take pictures of it.

COTTONWOOD -- Ken Richie will not face criminal charges in connection with last year's hot air balloon-paraglider crash during the Cottonwood Airport Airfest.

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office has determined that no criminal charges will be filed against the Cornville man who crashed his motorized para-glider into a hot air balloon during the Oct. 16, 2010 Airfest. Ritchie said he flew close to the balloon in order to take pictures of it.

Cottonwood City Attorney Steve Horton said the County Attorney's Office has advised that Kenneth Ritchie's mental state could not be determined in order to prove negligence, or any other charge.

Since the paraglider pilot cannot be charged criminally, the city may release the crash evidence held in the city's evidence locker, including parts of the balloon and remains of the paraglider.

Other suits

At the same time, it is now believed that most of the civil lawsuits have been filed in the same case.

One suit has been filed by the estate of John Biddulph, a former dental instructor who has since died. Biddulph was a friend of the balloon pilot and owner, another dentist from Page, E. Pell Wadleigh.

Wadleigh had been invited by former Airport Commission Chairman Aleck Gradijan to participate in the air show. According to the suit, Wadleigh was advised his balloon would have "...exclusive use of an airport, free propane and a free pilot breakfast."

After Ken Ritchie's paraglider crashed into the balloon, tearing it and becoming ensnared in its guy lines, the balloon and paraglider made a hard landing into the parking lot of Unisource Energy after first crashing onto a hedge row. Biddulph, the pilot and other passenger, Susan Evans, fell out of the balloon.

The suit claims that Biddulph died in April, six months afterward, of serious injuries sustained in the crash.

The Biddulph Estate suit is alleging Cottonwood breached its contract, after promising exclusive use of the airport. It claims the city was negligent in not properly maintaining safe air traffic above the airport. The suit also claims Ritchie was also negligent in the operation of his paraglider.

The second suit was filed on behalf of the two other occupants of the balloon, E. Pell Wadleigh and Susan Evans.

That suit also alleges beach of contract and negligence by the city and negligence by Ritchie.

Both cases ask the court for a jury trial.

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