SAN DIEGO (CN) - The family of a man killed in a freak helicopter crash at Palomar Airport this past year sued the airport, helicopter manufacturer and the pilot who also died in the crash.
Gary Lewis and his five brothers and sisters filed suit in San Diego Superior Court on Feb. 25 over the death of their "beloved brother" Wayne Lewis, who was the passenger on an Airbus helicopter operated by American Bank CEO Bruce Erickson.
The helicopter spun out and burst into flames this past November as Erickson tried to land the aircraft at the Premier Jet Facility at McClellan-Palomar Airport in north San Diego County. Both men died at the scene.
Lewis and his family claim product liability, negligence and wrongful death. They are seeking damages related to funeral and medical costs and for loss of financial support.
The Lewis family claims the Airbus helicopter had manufacturing defects including a lack of warnings and instructions for safe use which caused the crash and was a substantial factor in causing Lewis' death, according to the 12-page complaint.
Lewis also claims the airport was negligent in properly maintaining the landing site where the crash occurred - including securing the "chock" on each wheel of the mobile helipad to ensure it was stable before the helicopter landed.
Local news outlet 10News reported shortly after the crash that the chock had not been properly secured, which may have been why the helicopter spun out. In audio obtained by the station, Erickson is heard telling air traffic controllers that airport personal failed to secure the moveable landing pad which he claimed "was like a skateboard out here."
Named defendants include Airbus Helicopters, Palomar Airport Center dba Premier Jet and Erickson's estate.
The family is represented by Kevin Boyle, Brian Panish and Matthew Stumpf of Panish Shea & Boyle in Los Angeles.
Palomar Airport told Courthouse News Service they do not comment on pending litigation. Airbus Helicopters did not return an email request for comment, and Boyle did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Original article can be found here: http://www.courthousenews.com
GUARANTY DEVELOPMENT CO
BRUCE ERICKSON PRESIDENT & CEO
NTSB Identification: WPR16FA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 18, 2015 in Carlsbad, CA
Aircraft: AIRBUS HELICOPTERS AS350B3E, registration: N711BE
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On November 18, 2015, about 1624 Pacific standard time, an Airbus Helicopters AS350B3E, N711BE, departed controlled flight while landing on a moveable helipad at Mc Clellan-Palomar Airport, Carlsbad, California. The pilot, who was the owner, was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and private pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured; the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight departed Carlsbad at 1411. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
The entire accident sequence was captured on airport security cameras and the mobile phone cameras of multiple witnesses.
The helicopter departed earlier in the day from the east end of the Premier Jet fixed base operator (FBO) ramp, which was located midfield on the south side of runway 6/24. After departure, line crew moved the helipad to the west end of the ramp.
Upon returning, the helicopter approached the airport from the northeast and was cleared to land on runway 24. It descended to midfield, turned left, and approached the ramp in a low hover via taxiway A3. The helicopter then followed taxiway A and began an approach to the helipad from the east and into the direction of the sun. The helicopter then landed short of the helipad, with the center of its skids making contact with the pad's front edge. The helicopter immediately rocked back and its tailskid struck the ground. The helicopter then began a series of back and forth oscillations, and the helipad broke free from the rear left chock, rotated to the right, and pivoted around its front right wheel. The helicopter spun with the helipad for the first quarter of the turn, and then rapidly climbed and rotated 270 degrees to the right. The helipad came to rest to the north, having revolved 180 degrees, and about 50 seconds later the helicopter landed on the tarmac east of the helipad, while partially straddling taxiway A and the ramp at a 45-degree angle.
For the next 2 1/2 minutes line crew re-secured the helipad, installing chocks on three of the four wheels. The helicopter then repositioned for an approach to the helipad from the west. During the next 4 1/2 minutes the helicopter made three landing attempts, getting to within 5 to 20 ft of the helipad. A video of the final landing attempt was captured by a witness, who was located about 130 ft south. He had observed the other landing attempts and was concerned that the helicopter may crash, so positioned himself behind a car at the corner of the FBO's hangar.
The video revealed that the helicopter again landed short of the pad, similar to the first landing attempt, rocking back and forth twice onto its tailskid. After the final strike, the helicopter pitched violently forward and out of view behind the hangar. Security cameras revealed that from here the helicopter spun 180 degrees to the left, and after reaching a 45-degree nose up attitude, the aft tailrotor and vertical stabilizer assembly struck the ground and separated. The helicopter bounced and rotated another 360 degrees before landing hard on its left side. Once on the ground, the main rotor blades and cabin continued to spin with the engine still running. The helicopter continued spinning for the next 5 minutes and 10 seconds while slowly sliding about 530 ft east along the ramp. The tailboom and horizontal stabilizer then separated and the helicopter rolled onto its side, shedding the main rotor blades. The engine continued operating for another 30 seconds while fire crew doused the helicopter. White smoke billowed from the engine's exhaust after the helicopter came to rest, but there was no indication of fire.
The pilot purchased the helicopter on October 29, 2015, but had flown demonstration and familiarization flights in it since September 20. According to the helicopter's maintenance records, those flights totaled about 8.8 hours, and were all conducted with a certified flight instructor present. He received an additional 2 hours of flight training on November 13.
According to friends and flight instructors who had flown with the pilot, he had previously owned a Bell 407, and the accident flight was the first he had flown in the AS350 series without a professional pilot present.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Diego FSDO-09