A fatal helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 2 married couples in December 2014 was finally resolved with the recent award of a total of $16 million to the surviving heirs of the crash victims. The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS 350-B2, was registered and operated by the Sundance Helicopters, Inc., which offered “Twilight Tour” sightseeing trips from Las Vegas.
Tragic Helicopter Accident
In its investigation report of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the Sundance helicopter originated from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. It flew to the Hoover Dam area and was returning to the McCarran airport when the helicopter suddenly climbed 600 feet, made a sharp 90-degree turn to the left, and descended rapidly before crashing into the mountainous terrain of the River Mountains outside Las Vegas.
Cause of Helicopter Crash
Various factors attributed to the negligence of Sundance contributed to the crash. The NTSB reported that important hardware, particularly a self-locking nut, split pin (also known as a cotter pin), the bolt and washer, were not properly secured during maintenance a day before the accident.
Existing Eurocopter and FAA guidelines require 2 separate locking devices: a self-locking nut and a split pin for safety purposes.
The ill-fated chopper had a self-locking nut that was degraded beyond re-use specifications and which came loose during the flight. Without the split pin to secure the nut, the nut separated from the bolt which in turn disconnected from important linkages that were vital to helicopter control. As a result, the helicopter spun out of control.
Mechanic and inspector’s fatigue and the lack of clearly defined steps for maintenance checks also contributed to the accident. NTSB noted that the maintenance personnel were likely fatigued and did not have sufficient time to adjust to an earlier work schedule. Maintenance documents also failed to provide specific inspection steps for checking and maintaining systems for flight control.
Due to the impact of the crash, the helicopter broke into pieces and burned. Four passengers and the pilot died in the accident. The passengers were 2 married couples, one of whom was on their honeymoon while the other couple was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when the accident occurred.
Each of the surviving 7 heirs was awarded $2 million and each of the crash victims’ estates was awarded $500,000, for a total of $16 million in damages. Lawrence J. Smith, a partner at Bertoldo, Baker, Carter, Smith & Cullen, was co-counsel in the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Sundance.
If you need assistance with any personal injury or accident due to another’s negligence, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at (702) 505-8115.
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