KOMO-TV, Helicopters Inc, and the estate of the Seattle’s television station’s late pilot will pay $40M to two men who were injured when a news helicopter plummeted off the station’s rooftop in 2014 and crashed into the plaintiff’s cars. Guillermo Sanchez and Richard Newman alleged that KOMO and Helicopters Inc. ignored safety concerns about landing on the station’s rooftop helipad. The defendants do not admit responsibility for the March 2014 crash that killed pilot Gary Pfitzner and photojournalist Bill Strothman.
NTSB Accident Report Identification: WPR14FA137 states:
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER AS 350 B2, registration: N250FB
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.
The pilot was repositioning the helicopter from a rooftop helipad where it had just been refueled to a nearby airport. Video footage revealed that the helicopter lifted off of the helipad and simultaneously started to yaw to the left, consistent with a loss of tail rotor control. The helicopter completed one 360-degree rotation about the yaw (vertical) axis in a near level attitude while climbing. As it continued to rotate (spin) to the left, the helicopter deviated from a level attitude, pitching nose down and banking right, consistent with a loss of main rotor control. The helicopter moved away from the helipad, lost altitude, and impacted the street below. A postcrash fire erupted that consumed most of the fuselage and the forward section of the tailboom…
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The loss of helicopter control due to a loss of hydraulic boost to the tail rotor pedal controls at takeoff, followed by a loss of hydraulic boost to the main rotor controls after takeoff. The reason for the loss of hydraulic boost to the main and tail rotor controls could not be determined because of fire damage to hydraulic system components and the lack of a flight recording device.
SeattleTimes.com reported: “Darren Ellenwood, a Helicopters Inc. pilot who once flew for KOMO, testified that he quit his job after station management ignored his longstanding concerns about landing at the helipad. Ellenwood added that the station’s news director swore at him when he initially refused to refuel at the station’s helipad because of his worries about how KOMO maintained its fuel system.”
In allegations of aviation safety violations, the aviation expert is key in determining responsibility. These experts are skilled in aviation engineering, commercial aviation, pilot selection, flight aviation, and more. Aviation expert witnesses are knowledgeable regarding rules and regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administrationand are trained to evaluate accident investigations and reconstructions. Having the right aviation expert is a vital part of litigation.