April 23, 2014
6:06 pm

Coloma Grad Updates Payne Stewart Tragedy

James Watkins was a part of the Coloma High School Class of 1973.  He worked at Sweet Cherry Resort in the early days to earn some spending money and then went on to soar in his early career as a part of the family business of SunJet Aviation in Orlando, Florida.  Then the tragic death of golfing super star Payne Stewart turned James' world upside down.

Back in 1999 I wrote about Mr. Watkins and his ties to the tragedy when Stewart's chartered Learjet crashed into a field near Aberdeen, South Dakota.  At that time, the story was making international headlines.  Unfortunately for James, it was a story that crippled his ability to remain active in his chosen career field of business aviation.  Less than a year after the crash, James and his brother Paul sold what remained of their air charter business to one of their customers.  I lost track over the years but always wondered if he had ever been vindicated in the case.  The answer appeared on my Facebook timeline today when James, who is a friend there, posted a link to his HubPages account where he regularly blogs on a diverse world of subjects.

About three months ago, James shared the full story of what happened on that fateful flight and his own eventual vindication when it was discovered that the aircraft company had top secret records regarding experiences with cracks in Lear 35 aircraft such as Stewart and his friends had flown in. The picture accompanying this story on Moody on the Market.com is of another Learjet 35 to show you the type of aircraft involved.  

That part of the story has never gotten anywhere near the coverage of the crash itself.  It is a fascinating read, and well done by Mr. Watkins.  Here is the rest of the story as shared on his HubPages account:
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