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Family to Sue City, Firms Over Angels Flight Death

Court: The lawyer for Lola Praport says at a memorial service that one aim will be restoring the funicular with safer gear.

March 16, 2001|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The family of Leon Praport, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who died last month in the Angels Flight crash, will file a lawsuit against the city and private firms involved in restoring and operating the historic funicular, an attorney announced Thursday.

Lawyer Gary A. Dordick said the suit, also being filed on behalf of Praport's wife, Lola, who survived the Feb. 1 crash, will seek a judgment compelling the city to restore Angels Flight to full service with new, safe equipment.

"We are not interested in settling the case unless it includes a commitment to rebuild Angels Flight," he said. "Just yesterday, they removed more of its hardware."

Dordick spoke at an informal noontime memorial service held on Hill Street at the site of the crash. The ceremony was organized by downtown activists.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 17, 2001 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Metro Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Angels Flight--The name of composer David Woodard was spelled incorrectly in a story Friday about an Angels Flight memorial.

Dordick said that while he believes the Praport family is entitled to compensation, he also is worried that, without pressure, the city will be dilatory in reopening the service from Hill Street to the top of Bunker Hill.

Besides the New Jersey couple, six others were also injured in the accident, which occurred when one of the railway's two cable cars hurtled down a steep track and collided with the other.

During the memorial, which featured songs, speeches and a band, John H. Welborne, president of the nonprofit Angels Flight Railway Foundation, which leases the 100-year-old funicular system from the Community Redevelopment Agency, said planning is already underway to restore it.

However, Thomas Knox, a spokesman for the CRA, which was responsible for the $4.1-million restoration of the line that was finished in 1996, said Thursday that the CRA thinks such planning is premature.

"Since the National Transportation Safety Board has an ongoing investigation of the causes of the accident, we are not in a position to act until we see its conclusions," Knox said.

Dordick said he has filed a claim with the city and the CRA and each has 45 days to respond before he can sue them. In any case, he said, he plans to proceed in court next week against private parties, who he says also are culpable.

Thursday's memorial service, attended by about 75 people, may be followed later by a more formal event, its organizers said, when representatives of the Praport family can attend. Mrs. Praport, 80, is still undergoing surgeries for her injuries and is home in New Jersey.

Cherryl Wilson, vice president of the Historic Core Business Improvement District, said she thought the city itself should already have organized a memorial for Praport.

Among the speakers were City Councilwoman Rita Walters and Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo, a candidate for city attorney.

In memory of Praport, a small band performed "An Elegy for Two Angels," a fanfare prepared for the occasion by composer David Woodward. In 1999, Woodward conducted an orchestral requiem in Laguna Niguel for an 8-year-old boy who died in a park after a concrete bench tipped over and crushed him.

Dordick said he would deliver a copy of the newly composed fanfare to Mrs. Praport in New Jersey.

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Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this story.

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