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Published On: Wed, Apr 11th, 2018

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Grand Canyon Helicopter Crash

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed after a fatal helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon last month.

The crash, which occurred on tribal land near Quartermaster Canyon in Arizona, is accusing Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters of neglecting to equip its helicopters with crash-resistant fuel systems.

Three of the seven people on board the helicopter died at the scene of the crash. Three other passengers and the pilot were hospitalized in critical condition at University Medical Center. Two passengers died of their injuries in the weeks following the incident.

photo/Claim Accident Services

The parents of a British tourist who died in the crash filed the suit, claiming that their son would have survived his injuries had the copter been equipped with a crash-resistance fuel system.

These systems expand, rather than rupture, on impact and have self-sealing components to prevent fuel from spreading. They are designed to prevent an aircraft from catching fire and reduce the chance of people being burned in the crash.

The victim in the lawsuit was burned on more than 95% of his body and died in a trauma center ten days after the crash.

“Mr and Mrs Udall deeply grieve for the loss of their son but their primary motivation now is to prevent anyone else from having to suffer the deadly burn injuries as their son did,” said Gary Robb, attorney for the victim’s parents. “If this helicopter had been properly equipped with a crash-resistant fuel system, it would have allowed this young man to walk away injury-free.”

Robb has previously represented another victim in a Papillon crash in the Grand Canyon 17 years ago. The plaintiff, the sole survivor of the crash, was awarded $38 million. She suffered burns over 85% of her body.

The lawsuit is seeking $195,000, attorneys’ fees, unspecified damages and a jury trial.

“Wrongful death can bring devastation to friends and family of the victim,” says law firm Mainor Wirth. “The victim’s family may be able to receive compensation for funeral, burial costs and loss of love and companionship.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require all helicopters to be equipped with the systems.

Following the crash, Papillon announced that it would retrofit 40 its Airbus helicopters with the new fuel systems starting in April.

The NTSB report on the crash will not be available for at least a year. The preliminary report indicates that the helicopter made at least two 360-degree turns before it crashed. Experts say those movements indicate that the tail rotor was not working properly.

Papillon Airways CEO, Brenda Halvorson, said the lawsuit was filed prematurely.

“It is extremely premature and misguided for any attorney to make allegations regarding the accident prior to the NTSB investigation being complete,” Halvorson said in the statement to the Las Vegas Reeview-Journal. “We are working intimately with the NTSB and providing all technical and factual information as requested.”

A coroner has ruled that the victim died of “complications of thermal injury.”

Currently, helicopters in the United States are not required to have crash-resistant fuel systems in models certified before 1994.

Author: Jacob Maslow

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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