HAI Convention News

Families of three killed in MH-60S crash sue Sikorsky

 - February 20, 2009, 7:32 AM

The family members and heirs of three service members killed in the January 2007 crash of a Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer and several parts distributors, seeking a trial by jury and damages for the wrongful death of the three men.

According to the complaint filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, the family members of U.S. Navy petty officer first class Cory Helman, petty officer second class Christopher Will and lieutenant Adam Dyer allege that Sikorsky Aircraft, Sikorsky Support Services, Alcoa Global Fasteners, General Electric, Hi-Shear, Pacific Scientific and Parker-Hannifin are “negligently, intentionally, strictly liable or otherwise legally responsible” for the crash, which occurred on Jan. 26, 2007, approximately 9.5 miles south of Catalina Island, Calif. The helicopter had been performing training exercises off the USS Bonhomme Richard at the time.

The families filed the lawsuit after the U.S. Navy refused the families’ request to perform their own investigation, according to Mike Danko, an attorney with O’Reilly and Danko, the firm that filed the complaint. “The Navy said they were unable to determine the cause of the accident, and unfortunately, none of the defendants will talk to us or provide information,” Danko said. “So the lawsuit is a vehicle to allow us to investigate the accident. It is required because the Navy will not allow us to look at the wreckage.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants were aware of several defects in the component parts of the helicopter, including the engines, gear boxes, tail rotor drive, tail boom and tail fin structure and the inertia reel and restraint system. Due to the defendants’ alleged knowledge of these defects, the family members claim the decision to market and sell the helicopter was “reckless, willful, oppressive, malicious and done with reckless and wanton disregard for the rights and safety of the [service members]…and in conscious disregard of the safety hazards raised by those defects.”
The suit also alleges that the defects “caused and/or contributed to the crash…and the resulting fatal injuries.”

Because the result of the Navy investigation was inconclusive, the families and heirs do not have proof that defects caused the accident. “There have been other crashes,” Danko said. “Almost all of the parties that have been named have been involved in and manufactured components on other helicopters that have crashed as a result of defects. So what the complaint is doing is referring to other, similar accidents. Unless we have the power of subpoena that comes with a lawsuit, the defendants are not going to supply us with information.”

The families are seeking general damages, special damages, loss of consortium and statutory damage, to be determined by a jury.