Slack & Davis Files Aviation Lawsuit Against Airport and Airplane Operator for Death in Air Ambulance Crash in Las Cruces New Mexico

Attorney Mark Pierce with Slack & Davis, airplane accident attorneys representing victims of aviation crashes, filed a lawsuit against Southwest Aviation, Inc, Elite Medical Air Transport, LLC, and Amigos Aviation, Inc. on behalf of Frederick Green, one of three passengers killed in the air ambulance accident on August 27, 2014 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The crash also killed the pilot and two crew members onboard.

“Prior to departure, the Cessna 421C was misfueled with Jet A fuel at Southwest Aviation’s facility in Las Cruces instead of the required 100LL aviation gasoline,” said Mr. Pierce, also a licensed pilot. “Numerous safeguards should have been in place to prevent the introduction of jet fuel into the plane, and putting the wrong fuel in the airplane was a direct cause of the engine failure and subsequent crash.”

Background

On August 27, 2014, Mr. Green was a patient being transported on the airplane from Las Cruces to Phoenix, Arizona for medical treatment. The plane arrived for pickup around 6:30 pm at Las Cruces International Airport.

The pilot gave Southwest’s line service technician a verbal order to fill up a total of 40 gallons of fuel. The line service technician drove the fuel truck to the front of the airplane and refueled the airplane putting 20 gallons in each wing.

The pilot then assisted the line service technician with replacing both fuel caps. They both walked into the office and the pilot signed the machine-printed fuel ticket.

The airplane then departed from the Las Cruces Airport, and after it was airborne began trailing smoke. One or both engines failed because it had been fueled with Jet A fuel that had been dispensed at Southwest’s facility in Las Cruces instead of the required 100LL aviation gasoline. The engine failure caused the airplane to crash, killing all four persons onboard.

Slack & Davis Secures Significant Appellate Victory in First Impression Forum Non Conveniens Case

Nine families secured an important victory in the Oregon Court of Appeals against Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. (Evergreen) in a case arising out of a Peruvian helicopter crash that killed all 10 aboard according to Ladd Sanger who represents some of the families.

At issue on appeal was the trial court’s decision to grant Evergreen’s motions to dismiss the wrongful death actions of plaintiffs/appellants based on its conclusion that Peru was the more convenient forum in which to litigate plaintiffs’ claims. According to Sanger, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed the plaintiffs were entitled to conduct through discovery on the merits of the Evergreen’s allegation the evidence of the crash is in Peru rather than Oregon. Sanger pointed to specific instances of a radar altimeter and other terrain avoidance equipment that was installed by Evergreen Oregon as well as the operational control over the flight that was exercised from Oregon.

“The appellate court decision represents a victory for the families that lost loved ones in this tragic crash. For years these families have been battling to get justice in Oregon. This helicopter was controlled from Oregon and Evergreen knew the terrain avoidance systems in this helicopter were not functioning correctly when the helicopter left Oregon.” said Mr. Sanger.

Mr. Sanger added, “That work was done in Oregon by an Oregon corporation, signed off by an Oregon mechanic in Oregon, repairs to the improperly functioning safety system were attempted shortly before the helicopter was sent to Peru and crashed. With this decision these families will finally be able to conduct discovery and hopefully be justly compensated for the loss of their family members.”

Specifically, the Appeals Court had to determine whether dismissal based on the inconvenient-forum doctrine is available in Oregon, and, if so, what standards must be applied in governing a trial court’s application of the doctrine. These fundamental questions presented a unique case of first impression as the Oregon appellate courts had never directly confronted them before.

The Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that the inconvenient-forum doctrine is available, and that an Oregon trial court may decline to exercise its jurisdiction to try a case based on considerations of convenience and justice when an adequate, alternative forum is presently available in which to try the case. However, in reversing the decision, the Court also found that the trial court relied on inappropriate factors to dismiss plaintiffs’ actions, and instructed the trial court to reconsider its decision in light of the Court’s opinion on remand.

Background

This appeal originally arose out of an aviation crash in route to a mining site in Peru during inclement weather that resulted in the death of all 10 onboard, including eight Peruvian passengers. Plaintiffs, the personal representatives of the estates of the passengers, brought wrongful death actions in Oregon against Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., an Oregon corporation that leased the helicopter and employed the pilot.

The trial court granted Evergreen’s motions to dismiss plaintiffs’ actions based on its conclusion that Peru was the more convenient forum in which to litigate plaintiffs’ claims, and an appeal before the Oregon Court of Appeals followed.

Richard S. Yugler, Robert B. Hopkins, Matthew K. Clarke, and Landye Bennett of Blumstein LLP served as co-counsel with Slack & Davis on this case.

Ladd Sanger Analyzes Woodsboro Aviation Crash

On Thursday afternoon on October 2nd, a Bell 206 helicopter crashed outside of Woodsboro critically injuring two passengers and the pilot. Partner Ladd Sanger with Slack & Davis, a national law firm representing victims of aviation crashes and a licensed helicopter pilot said, “The pilot was doing a pipeline inspection when the helicopter lost power. In these scenarios, it requires a quicker response from the pilot and there are few options to land the helicopter.”

Mr. Sanger had assisted in aviation law with two similar helicopter crashes in the Dallas area (2002 and 2007) involving a 206 Bell helicopter, a case in which the helicopter was operating at low altitude and low speed. He added, “The 2007 Bell helicopter crash lost engine power as a result of a failing compressor wheel, and the 2002 crash lost engine power as a result of the backing off of the PC air line ‘B’ nut due to the improper installation by the company maintenance personnel. Accidents involving the Bell helicopter have had various causes, including engine failure, tail rotor failure or hand torque issues causing very difficult situations for a pilot.”

Mr. Sanger is available to give background on the recent 206 Bell crash, including:

–Why the tail rotor issue is much more serious when the helicopter is flying at low air speed.
–Other issues that come into play when flying a helicopter at low speed.
–The similarities between Thursday’s Bell helicopter crash and other Bell crashes.

This crash also hits close to home for Partner Michael Slack, a licensed pilot, who was born and raised in Refugio, TX.