Helicopter maker, tour company sued over crash
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Lawyers for the lone survivor of the Grand Canyon air tour crash that killed six people in August have filed a lawsuit alleging engine malfunction and possible pilot error.
Chana Daskal, who remains in critical condition with burns over 80 percent of her body, is suing Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters of Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, Ariz., its four principals and a mechanic.
Daskal is the wife of David Daskal, who was one of five New York tourists killed in the crash 60 miles east of Las Vegas. The pilot, Kevin Innocenti, 27, of Henderson, also died.
The Daskals were passengers in a 1991 Eurocopter A5350-B2 they boarded in Las Vegas. They were flying Aug. 10 near the Grand Wash Cliffs, four miles east of Meadview, Ariz., when the helicopter’s engine suddenly stopped running, the lawsuit said.
The aircraft ”plummeted downward and crashed into the Grand Wash Cliffs 3,700 feet up a 5,600-foot escarpment,” the lawsuit said.
Chana Daskal was ”pulled from the wreckage awake and alert” and was airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas for treatment, the lawsuit said.
The 25-year old mother of two has received skin graft operations due to severe burns, suffered a broken spine and undergone amputation of her left leg, the lawsuit stated.
”She has turned the corner and is on a long road to recovery,” Daskal’s attorney Joe Benson told the Las Vegas Sun. ”She has the will to live and is going to recover. But she still has tremendous burns over 80 percent of her body.”
Defendants in the lawsuit also include Innocenti’s estate; American Eurocopter Corp. and Turbomeca Engine Corp., two manufacturers of helicopter and engine parts in Grand Prairie, Texas; and Zuni LLC, a Washington-based helicopter retailer.
Turbomeca officials and Papillon spokesman Robert Graff declined to comment. The other defendants could not be reached for comment.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation to determine the official cause of the crash is expected to wrap up in January or February, NTSB investigator Jeff Rich said Thursday.
A preliminary examination of the helicopter engine involved in the crash revealed it might have malfunctioned, investigators said.
An NTSB report said Daskal told paramedics: ”It got quiet and fell from the sky.”
”Her comment of total silence (before the helicopter plummeted) is highly suggestive of a hydraulics system lockup. Torsional overload indicates hydraulics failure. When the hydraulics system fails, that means there’s no power sent to the propeller and engine,” Benson said. ”Defective maintenance would have caused hydraulics failure, which would point to negligence on the part of maintenance.”
Investigators are skeptical of Daskal’s comment because of evidence they collected and because she had been given morphine before she was asked what she remembered of the crash.
The lawsuit also alleges pilot error might have caused the crash. Federal Aviation Administration officials said Innocenti’s pilot license was in good standing and he had no record of accidents or discipline.
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