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Family of pilot who died in Burley Airport crash files wrongful death suit

Christopher Sebela

The family of Brittney Infanger, a pilot from Salmon who died in a crash at the Burley Municipal Airport last April, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Burley, the city of Heyburn, a nearby potato processing plant and the state Department of Transportation.

Infanger, who was 30 when she died, flew planes for UPS, transporting packages. On the morning of April 13, 2022, flying by herself into Burley from Salt Lake City, she crashed her Cessna 208B into a smokestack at the Gem State Processing plant in Heyburn, located just across the Snake River from the runway. The plane fell to the potato processor’s roof.

A preliminary accident report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board said the crash occurred after Infanger missed her first landing attempt at the airport. It was snowing out, and on the second approach, a witness said he saw the plane come out of the clouds and head into steam produced by the smokestacks.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Times-News, was filed in Ada County District Court last week by James Robert and Sharon Infanger, Brittney’s parents. It said defendants put “their economic returns above the lives of pilots using the Burley Airport.”

Central to the claims is that the city of Burley knew its airport was unsafe as far back as 2013. After years of warnings that the airport would need to shorten its runways or move, the FAA withdrew federal funding in 2018. Still, the city has kept it open. Infanger's family is seeking “maximum recovery of damages” and a jury trial.

In city meetings, officials have said they have been trying to move the airport location for decades, but have come up short due to funding constraints or other roadblocks. Burley twice proposed state legislation to make it easier for just two counties, instead of three, to form an airport authority, but the bills didn’t go forward.

New smokestacks at the potato processing plant went up in 2016, and the lawsuit alleges Gem State Processing didn’t go through the proper channels to notify the FAA before construction. Local pilots spoke out with concerns about the structures at the time. In general, local entities are responsible for zoning decisions around airports. Burley also owns the land where the processor is located, which is within the city of Heyburn.

The Division of Aeronautics under the Idaho Department of Transportation is named, the suit said, because it’s supposed to evaluate structures near public airports for potential safety impacts. ITD said it couldn’t comment because of the pending litigation. The cities of Burley and Heyburn, and Gem State Processing, did not return requests to comment on the case Wednesday.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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