Former Casper Mayor Sues Plane Repair Companies Over Near-Fatal Crash

Former Casper Mayor Bruce Knell on Thursday sued Casper Air Service and Natrona Avionics, saying the repair shops didn't fix the fuel system in his plane, which caused a near-fatal crash in 2022.

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Clair McFarland

February 09, 20243 min read

Former Casper Mayor Bruce Knell after a 2022 plane crash left him seriously hurt and hospitalized.
Former Casper Mayor Bruce Knell after a 2022 plane crash left him seriously hurt and hospitalized. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Casper’s former mayor is suing an airplane repair company over a 2022 plane wreck that left him badly injured.

Bruce Knell filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming against sister companies Casper Air Service LLC and Natrona Avionics LLC, and the latter’s owner, Leroy Dunn.

Knell is accusing all three defendants of negligence and willful and wanton misconduct for allegedly failing to fix his plane’s fuel system. He’s asking for monetary compensation for his injuries and the destruction of his 1976 Piper Lance, and for punitive damages “to punish and stop such reckless, outrageous and wrongful conduct in the future.”

Fell From The Sky

Knell and his wife Stacy were flying March 24, 2022, from Casper to St. George, Utah, for a golf tournament when the plane lost power over a field a mile from the St. George Regional Airport.

Knell described the crash to Cowboy State Daily from his hospital bed two days later.

“I remember losing power,” he said at the time, adding that the plane “just literally fell out of the sky” from 3,700 feet.

He tried to keep the plane upright and glide it in, but it went down with a “really hard” impact that rendered Knell unconscious.

Knell said the crash broke his back in four places, broke his sternum, and that the inside of his mouth was “cut up pretty bad.”

Stacy was taken to a Las Vegas hospital for care with a broken back, facial lacerations and brain bleeding, Knell said at the time.

The Repairs

Knell’s lawsuit says he asked the repair shops and Dunn to do an annual inspection on his plane Feb. 10, 2022.

Two weeks later, Knell also requested maintenance on his fuel system, says the lawsuit.

The document alleges that Dunn worked on the fuel system, but “did not enter work done on fuel system … in (his) maintenance logbook” as federal law requires.

The day before Knell’s flight, Dunn allegedly assured Knell that he’d fixed the fuel system, the lawsuit says. But in the sky March 24, 2022, the plane’s fuel pressure dropped to nearly zero.

Knell is now accusing the shops and Dunn of altering invoices relating to the plane’s repairs after the wreck “to show that no maintenance had been performed on the fuel system of the Piper Lance.”

Cheyenne-based attorney Frederick Harrison filed Knell’s lawsuit on his behalf.

In a post-publication comment to Cowboy State Daily, Dunn's business partner Tom VanKleef said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but added, "We do wish Bruce and Stacy - as we always have – a speedy recovery."

Note - This story has been updated to reflect a post-publication comment from Dunn's business partner.

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter