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SLO cyclist says a jet blew him off his bike. Now he’s suing the airport

An 81-year-old bicyclist is suing San Luis Obispo Regional Airport and the county after he says he was blown off his recumbent bicycle by the engine blast of a departing jet.

A complaint filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Friday alleges that San Luis Obispo resident Ross Pepper was one of a group of riders who were “struck forcefully by the blast from an aircraft preparing to depart from the southeastern corner of the runway apron of the SLO Airport.”

The lawsuit does not pinpoint precisely where the incident occurred, but it states that Pepper was riding south with a group of 14 other cyclists on Highway 227 on June 13, 2018.

While passing the airport, the lead group of about eight riders were “knocked onto the ground and into the roadway, in the way of oncoming traffic, by the jet engine blast, the complaint says.

The gust knocked Pepper, who was riding a recumbent bike, to the ground “and spun his body and bike 180 degrees and onto the pavement of Highway 227 into the southbound lane of traffic, causing him severe injuries and damaging his bike and property,” the lawsuit reads.

The legal action lists the airport and the county as defendants and argues each are liable because Pepper’s injuries occurred on a public road, as well as Caltrans and the Federal Aviation Administration, which have oversight of the airport.

It seeks an unspecified amount in general and economic damages, as well as attorney and court fees. Pepper’s attorney, Dustin Tardiff, did not return a request for comment Monday.

Craig Piper, deputy director of the SLO County Regional Airport, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

San Luis Obispo County Counsel Rita Neal said that though the county has not yet been served with the lawsuit, her office is aware of the plaintiffs’ claims and has every intention of defending the county once the suit is served.

A case management conference has been scheduled for October.

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