Jan and Bill Kilgore, the parents of Ryan Kilgore, the pilot of the plane that crashed into a home in Gilbert on Saturday night, made a statement at the Maricopa Medical Center on Sept. 20, 2016, in Phoenix. Rob Schumacher/azcentral.com
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Peter and Sharon LeBeau speak briefly to reporters on Sept. 19, 2016, two days after their house was hit by a pilotless small plane while they were inside. Alden Woods/azcentral.com
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Emergency personnel work the scene of a plane that crashed into a Gilbert home on Sept. 18, 2016. Ben Moffat/azcentral.com
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Cellphone footage of a plane before it crashed into a Gilbert home on Sept. 18, 2016.
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Jesse Cagle and Kevin Mark talk about a pool party that ended in a surprising way.
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Gilbert Fire Department PIO Gary Hildebrandt talks about a plane crash that hit a house on Sept. 18, 2016, in Gilbert.
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Jan and Bill Kilgore, the parents of Ryan Kilgore
Peter and Sharon LeBeau talk after plane crash
Gilbert plane crash cleanup
Eyewitness video of plane crashing in Gilbert
Witnesses nearby describing plane crash and finding pilot in nearby field
Plane crashes into Gilbert home
It’s been nearly nine months since a Cesna 182 slammed into Peter and Sharon Lebeau’s Gilbert home, but the couple is still living in temporary housing.
There’s a shell of a new home sitting where their home of 20 years once sat undisturbed in their neighborhood near Ray and Lindsay Roads. Just the walls, foundation and a portion of the roofing have been rebuilt so far.
Affixed to the chain-link fence that surrounds the lot is a sign that reads, “Please Share & Donate,” followed by a Go Fund Me website address to help the Lebeaus.
On Sept. 17, 2016, the wing of an airplane that was part of a skydiving display headed for the annual Constitution Fair at the Gilbert Civic Center caught fire.
All four passengers and eventually the pilot were able to parachute to safety, leaving the empty aircraft to plummet into the roof of the Lebeau’s home. Miraculously, both Peter and Sharon were uninjured.
But their home of 20 years was a “total loss,” according to a legal notice filed with the city in March.
In the days following the crash, the couple told the media they were “grateful to God to be alive.” But now the couple is reeling with the realities that accompany an unanticipated emergency.
The Lebeaus filed the notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — against Gilbert seeking $20 million for their pain and suffering and emotional and psychological trauma. Their insurance company filed a separate $507,000 claim for the home and vehicle damage.
The town is not a sponsor of the event, but does issue a special event permit to allow Constitution Week USA to hold the fair on town property, according to town spokeswoman Dana Berchman.
In a written statement, the town’s attorney Robert Grasso said, “The Town has considered the claim and concluded that the claim asserted against the Town is completely meritless.”
But the couple’s attorney argues in the notice of claim that the town was responsible for ensuring safety at the event, and its negligence “essentially uprooted and wreaked havoc on a family.”
From a home to debris
The notice of claim reveals poignant details of the accident.
Just after 7 p.m., Peter was sitting in his recliner in the “TV room.” His wife was across the house in the couple’s bedrooms with their two dogs, Motek and Sheba.
The Lebeaus heard a loud crash as the plane ripped through the roof of their home. Fire, glass and debris filled the living room, which separated Peter and Sharon.
“Neither Peter nor Sharon knew if the other, or their pets were alive,” according to the notice of claim.
They both made their way out of the home and into the front yard where they reunited — but the dogs were missing. Peter ran to the back of the burning home and found both pets alive, but covered in shards of glass.
Onlookers had assembled while the couple escaped the home and lined the street with cellphones “not to call for help as one might imagine, rather to eerily take recordings and video of the Lebeau’s (sic) and their home,” according to the notice of claim.
Family friends escorted the Lebeaus away from the accident scene, but the couple, unable to sleep, returned to their home a few hours later at 1 a.m. They saw the massive hole in the middle of the home and smoke, fire and water damage everywhere.
“The years in the home, their settled and comfortable lifestyle, the priceless memories and heirlooms, the souvenirs they had acquired from all of their world adventures were now debris,” according to the notice of claim.
The Lebeaus struggled emotionally in the days and months following the accident, according to the notice of claim.
Sharon broke down at San Tan Shopping Center as she attempted to replace some of her belongings before a trip. Both Peter and Sharon faced “trepidation” as they prepared to ride in an airplane for the first time following the crash. And each time they heard a siren or saw an emergency vehicle, they were transported back to the night of the accident, the claim says.
The Lebeaus total damages to date, including the loss of property, medical visits and counseling, tops $800,000, but will continue to climb, according to the claim.
The Lebeaus offered to settle their claims for $10 million each. Their insurance company offered to settle for just over $507,000. Neither party has filed a suit in court.
The town’s attorney said Gilbert is not exploring the settlement of these claims as it believes the claims are “meritless.”
The Lebeaus, reached through their attorney, did not comment on the notice of claim.
Constitution Fair will continue
While the legal ramifications of last year’s Constitution Fair accident are still to be decided, this year’s event is just around the corner, and organizers say it will be “exactly the same” as it was last year — with one notable difference.
There will be no skydivers or aerial displays when the fair comes alive on Sept. 16, according to Constitution Week USA President Dwayne Farnsworth.
Farnsworth said Constitution Week USA has always used the same skydivers for the fair, and that group no longer has a plane because of last year’s accident.
Constitution Week began in Gilbert in 2002. Along with the fair, organizers put on educational events to remind young and old of the often forgotten “Constitution Day” holiday.
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