Articles Posted in Aviation Accidents

Earlier this week in the Washington DC suburb of Gaithersburg, a plane crash took the lives of six people. Three of the accident victims were on board the plane, and three others were in a home that the plane crashed into. According to a report by one local news source, the plane was about a mile away from the Montgomery County Airport when the fatal crash occurred.

Evidently, the plane had left North Carolina earlier that morning, and it is believed that the plane was heading to Maryland and was about to land when the crash occurred. For some unknown reason, the plane went down before it could safely land. As it did, the plane crashed into a two-story home, demolishing one of the exterior walls and starting a large fire that spread throughout a neighborhood. Sadly, reports indicate that one young mother and her two children were killed in their home as the plane came down. It is not clear if they were killed in the crash itself or in the resulting fire.

The Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the scene shortly after the accident and is conducting its own in-depth investigation.

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An Oklahoma man who was a passenger in a private jet with his son-in-law last March, suffered serious brain injuries when the plane attempted an emergency landing, which also killed the plane’s two pilots. The men subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for their injuries.

The two men sued the makers and owners of the plane, on which they were traveling for business, at the time. The main plaintiff claims that he is unlikely to recover from the serious brain injuries, and that he is now bedridden and has trouble speaking. He is reportedly unlikely to ever make a serious recovery and become independent. While he was a firefighter at the time he was injured, his health insurance did not cover the injuries, as they were sustained while conducting unrelated business.

The man’s son-in-law, while in better overall condition, suffered orthopedic injuries. The families are seeking unspecified damages for physical injury, emotional distress, loss of normal life, medical expenses and lost earnings. An attorney for the men stated that the lawsuit will not be able to proceed until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation.

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Families of the victims killed in a tragic helicopter crash near Las Vegas, Nevada have filed two lawsuits against the company that operated the sightseeing craft. The crash occurred the afternoon of December 7, 2011 in the Lake Mead Recreational Area near the Hoover Dam, about twelve miles east of Las Vegas. The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, was owned and operated by Sundance Helicopters, a Las Vegas-based tour company. Sundance conducts sightseeing tours of the area surrounding Las Vegas. Five people lost their lives in the crash, two married couples and the helicopter pilot, Landon Nield.

The specific cause of the crash remains unknown. Radar tracking data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reportedly showed that the helicopter entered an “erratic and abnormal flight pattern” just before it crashed. The pilot did not make an emergency call. The NTSB has determined that the helicopter did not lose power before crashing. The agency is conducting its own investigation into the crash, but it may not have a final report or a determination of what caused the crash for some time.

The first lawsuit came within days, filed on December 13, 2011 in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The plaintiffs are family members of Lovish Bhanot and Anupama Bhola, newlyweds from New Delhi, India who died in the crash while on their honeymoon. The suit alleges negligence against Sundance and demands unspecified monetary damages.

A second lawsuit followed on December 29, filed by four children of Delwin and Tamara Chapman of Utica, Kansas, the other victims of the crash. The Chapmans were in Las Vegas celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. This lawsuit also claims unspecified damages against Sundance. The same attorney is representing both sets of plaintiffs. He told the Associated Press that he will do joint discovery in the cases but wants to conduct separate trials.

The lawsuits, according to news reports, allege negligence and make claims for wrongful death. Wrongful death is a civil legal claim seeking to hold a defendant liable for the death of a person, usually as part of a negligence claim. Unlike criminal legal matters, which seek punishment like fines or imprisonment, a wrongful death claim only seeks monetary damages.

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A judge awarded $17.845 million to a family in a negligence lawsuit against the federal government over a military jet crash that killed four people. A series of mechanical failures and human errors caused the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet jet to crash into the family’s University City home in San Diego, California on December 8, 2008. The crash killed 59 year-old Seokim Kim-Lee, her 36 year-old daughter Youngmi Lee Yoon, and Yoon’s daughters Grace Yoon, age 15 months, and Rachel Yoon, age 7 weeks. Kim-Lee was visiting from her home in Korea at the time of the crash.

According to a timeline published by San Diego’s KGTV, the jet took off from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln at 11:11 a.m. that morning. It began experiencing mechanical troubles within a few minutes. At 11:21, the carrier ordered the pilot to divert to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, about ninety nautical miles away. The right engine shut down at 11:28, and the next thirty minutes saw numerous equipment problems. Three nautical miles from the air station in Miramar, the plane suffered a flameout, and it crashed at 11:57 a.m.

An investigation into the crash conducted by the Marine Corps found that mechanical failures with the jet’s right engine and fuel transfer system caused an “avoidable” tragedy. It identified policies and practices that could have prevented the crash, including “more aggressive maintenance procedures” and better training and oversight of maintenance personnel. The report partly blamed the crash on decisions by the pilot and ground personnel that morning. Four officers, including the commanding officer and operations officer, were “relieved for cause” from the squadron, and several other individuals received administrative discipline.

Don Yoon, husband of Youngmi Lee Yoon and father of Grace and Rachel Yoon, joined by Sanghyun Lee, husband of Seokim Kim-Lee, and several of Lee and Kim-Lee’s adult children, filed a lawsuit in July 2010 against the United States government and The Boeing Company, who manufactures the F/A-18 jet. They had first filed administrative claims with the Navy in May 2009 under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and admiralty law. The Navy denied these claims in March 2010, and they proceeded to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. They alleged that the government and Boeing had knowledge of failures and defects in this jet model, but cleared it for use anyway. They asserted claims for negligence under both admiralty law and the FTCA against the government, and claims for products liability and breach of warranty against Boeing. The government admitted full liability for the crash, and the case went to trial before the court on December 12, 2011 on the question of FTCA damages.

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According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the state-of-the-art emergency beacon aboard the plane carrying former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens did not go off as it should have when the tragic aviation accident happened on Monday afternoon. Rescue efforts did not begin until early that evening and survivors were forced to stay at the wreckage overnight.

The private plane, a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter , belonged to General Communications Inc., which was hosting a fishing trip for Stevens and the other passengers. The telecommunications company had registered an emergency beacon for the aircraft with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system, but the program’s manager, Chris O’Connors, says that there is no evidence that a signal from the plane was sent to the satellites when the aircraft crashed into a mountain. The newest of the beacons are supposed to serve as emergency locator transponders that provide an accurate location of an emergency scene so that rescue efforts can start immediately.

Our Washington DC aviation accident lawyers know how tragic it is to lose someone you love in a plane crash. Although they occur less frequently than traffic crashes, aircraft accidents more often than not result in serious injuries and deaths. Aircraft malfunction, pilot error, poor weather, FAA negligence, and air traffic controller mistakes, are just some of the reasons why plane accidents happened.

In addition to Stevens, the others who died in Monday’s Alaska plane crash were GCI Senior Vice President Dana Tindall, 48, her daughter Corey, 16, former Stevens chief of staff and Washington DC lobbyist Bill Phillips, and pilot Terry Smith, 62. Those who survived the airplane crash with injuries are former NASA head Sean O’Keefe, his son Kevin, lobbyist Jim Morhard, 53, and Phillips’ son Willy, 13.

Stevens, 86, was Alaska’s US Senator for four decades. He was the Senate’s longest-serving Republican.

Plane’s emergency beacon failed in Alaska crash, USA Today, August 12, 2010
Bad weather delayed rescue in Alaska crash for 12 hours, CNN, August 10, 2010

Long, cold night for survivors after crash that killed Stevens
, ADN, August 12, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Federal Aviation Administration

National Transportation Safety Board

Ted Stevens Dies at 86 (Obituary), New York Times, August 10, 2010

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In an attempt to improve safety and decrease the number of emergency medical hospital accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling on the federal government to come up with tougher rules that emergency helicopter operators would need to abide by. Recommendations include requiring flight data recorders, night-vision systems, and autopilots on the aircrafts. The NTSB also is calling on the Health and Human Services Department to mandate that emergency helicopter operators fulfill certain safety standards before being given Medicare payments for medical flights.

Between December 2007 and October 2008, 35 people died in nine aviation accidents involving emergency medical helicopters. Since then, there have been three emergency medical accidents although, fortunately, no one has died. In the last two decades, at least 150 people have died in over 200 EMS helicopter crashes.

There has been a greater than 80% increase in the number of emergency medical helicopters in the US in the past 10 years and there are some 750 medical service helicopters in operation today. Yet these helicopters aren’t required to contain the same basic safety features that commercial planes must carry. EMS Pilots don’t have a lot of time to prepare for rescue flights and often they have to land in places that aren’t designed for aircraft landings. They may even have to avoid hitting trees, power lines, buildings, homes, and people.

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