Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
A Helo Crash Killed Their Crew Chief. Now 2 Surviving Soldiers Are Suing The Manufacturer
A firm representing the victims of an April 2017 Army Black Hawk UH-60L helicopter crash has filed a lawsuit against Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, alleging that the tail rotor was improperly manufactured and caused the death of the crew chief and serious injuries to both pilots.
Marine veteran and attorney Timothy Loranger filed the lawsuit Monday in Connecticut Superior Court on behalf of the Army Capt. Terikazu Onoda and his wife Faith Onoda; Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Nicholas; and Jessica Tomlin, the wife of Army Spec. Jeremy Tomlin, who was killed in the crash.
Loranger, an attorney with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, told Military.com Tuesday that the suit accuses Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aerospace Services, Inc. and its parent company, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, of "products liability and loss of consortium."
"The helicopter was defective, it crashed, the pilots were badly injured, one person died; Sikorsky, we are alleging, is responsible for the crash," Loranger said.
"The injuries that were suffered were physical injuries, emotional injuries of the pilots. The death of the crew chief was the end of the relationship between the crew chief and his wife -- so loss of consortium is her loss of care, comfort ... all the things one gets from a personal relationship with their spouse.
"So we say Sikorsky is responsible for all damages that occurred. The same thing that occurs between the pilot, who is also married — Terikazu Onoda — he and his wife — their relationship is far different now because of the injuries that he suffered."
Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said Tuesday that Sikorsky is aware of the lawsuit but the company’s policy is to “not comment on pending litigation."
Onoda was piloting the UH-60L Black Hawk, Nicholas was acting as co-pilot and Tomlin was the crew chief on April 17, 2017. The helicopter was one of three aircraft conducting a daylight air assault training formation flight.
During the flight to Davison Army Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the helicopter experienced "unexplained and abnormal vibrations," according to a Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman news release issued on Dec. 10. The air crew radioed they were experiencing a tail rotor malfunction and announced that they were going to make a precautionary landing at Deerfield Airport, Maryland, a private airport three nautical miles south of their position, according to the release.
Seconds later "the tail rotor gearbox, which allows the pilots to control the direction of flight, separated from the helicopter and resulted in complete loss of control. The aircrew advised that they 'were going down,' initiated an autorotation and made a left turn toward a long fairway at the Breton Bay Golf Course in Leonardtown, Maryland," according to the release.
Despite the pilots' attempts to maintain control, the aircraft began to spin to the right, completing three rotations to the right before colliding with a tree and then the ground. Onoda and Nicholas sustained serious injuries in the crash. Tomlin was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the release.
"We are saying that something went terribly wrong with the tail rotor system that caused it to malfunction so badly that it literally left the aircraft. ... They had no control over the yaw of the aircraft and they crashed because of that, and we are saying 'it's a manufacturing or a design defect,' " Loranger said.
The next step for the suit is to exchange information with Sikorsky and investigate to determine whether the tail rotor section was manufactured properly and to appropriate standards, Loranger said.
“It looks like something went wrong during the manufacturing process that allowed there to be a weakness within the tail rotor section," he said. "We are suggesting that they made it incorrectly."
Loranger did not want to discuss the amount of compensation the court might award the victims should they win the suit.
"We are still investigating the case," Loranger said. "The damages are someone died, two men's lives have been completely changed and that is up to a jury to decide."
This article originally appeared on Military.com
Read more articles from Military.com:
- Air Force Admits Nearly 2,000 Airmen Under Medical Waiver Policy
- Air Force to Debut Electronic Warfare Findings
- U.S. Military Probes Niger Crash that Killed French Soldier
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
A Marine Raider convicted in a North Carolina court of misdemeanor assault for punching his girlfriend won't spend any time in jail unless he violates the terms of his probation, a court official told Task & Purpose.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.