In the recent Hoover Dam helicopter crash, five people, the pilot and four tour passengers, were killed when their tour helicopter slammed into a mountainside. This wasn’t the first tour crash for the tour operators – Sundance Helicopters.
In 2003, a Sundance helicopter crashed in Descent Canyon, about a mile from the Grand Canyon, after slamming into a canyon wall. In that crash the pilot and six tour passengers were killed.
After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report which held that the “probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s disregard of safe flying procedures and misjudgment of the helicopter’s proximity to terrain, which resulted in an in-flight collision with a canyon wall.” Though a certified and seasoned airplane and helicopter pilot and instructor with almost 8,000 flight hours, including almost 7,000 flight hours in helicopters, and no FAA history of accidents or enforcements, federal investigators found the pilot had a history of subjecting tour passengers to risky flight maneuvers.
Previous tour passengers who had flown with the pilot said the pilot, among other things, would hover the helicopter then make steep dives into the canyon. The pilot also flew close to the canyon walls and made excessively fast stops. Tour passengers called him “dangerous.” After flying with the pilot a Sundance official also questioned the pilot’s safety. But though Sundance thereafter suspended the pilot for a week without pay, the suspension was not enforced.
The NTSB found that Sundance and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also contributed to the accident by not providing “adequate surveillance of Sundance’s air tour operations in Descent Canyon.”
Several other helicopter crashes have occurred in Nevada in the last few years.
• In 2007, five Navy service members were killed during a night training mission near the Fallon Range Training Complex when their helicopter struck a NV Energy power line and subsequently crashed.
• In 2010, after rescuing a stranded climber, a pilot and three emergency rescue operators were injured when their helicopter then crashed in the Ruby Mountains.
• In 2011, a pilot was killed and three sheriff officers injured when their plane crashed near Southern Nevada.
In these types of crashes, injured survivors and the families of lost crash victims often look to the courts to determine what happened, who’s liable, and resolve any compensation issues. Typical legal suits filed center generally allege wrongful death against the helicopter operators and/or product liability against the helicopter operators and manufacturers. Other potential defendants can be injured survivors and crash victims if actions on their parts were negligent and contributed to the crash, and government bodies if the crash location was improperly maintained.
The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you or a family member are injured or killed in a helicopter or similar aerial vehicle, and would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review, and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400