Aviation Accident Attorney Obtains $8 Million Settlement for Fatal Helicopter Crash; NTSB Finds Pilot’s Texting Partially to Blame

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Gary C. Robb, an aviation accident attorney in Kansas City, obtains a settlement for victims of a fatal helicopter crash that occurred near Mosby, Missouri.

According to Mr. Robb, “The heavy workload demands of a helicopter pilot in flight are simply incompatible with texting.”

Well-known aviation accident attorney Gary C. Robb has obtained eight million dollars in settlements (Bever, et al. v. Estate of Freudenberg, Clay County, 11CY-10505) (Tacoronte, et al. v. Estate of Freudenberg, Clay County, 11CY-CV10179) arising from a fatal helicopter crash which the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has officially identified as the first time “texting while flying” has been linked to a fatal commercial air crash (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-09/texting-while-flying-linked-to-commercial-crash-in-first.html).

In a public hearing held in Washington, D.C., last week, the NTSB concluded that the helicopter pilot, James Freudenberg, sent and received some two hundred and forty (240) text messages during his shift, including three sent and five received while the helicopter was in flight. According to the hearing report, the distracted pilot failed to realize that he had inadequate fuel to complete the flight, and the helicopter crashed ultimately near Mosby, Missouri on August 26, 2011 due to fuel starvation.

According to Mr. Robb, “The heavy workload demands of a helicopter pilot in flight are simply incompatible with texting.” Mr. Robb, a partner and aviation accident attorney in the Kansas City, Missouri law firm of Robb & Robb LCC, is the author of the authoritative textbook, “Helicopter Crash Litigation” (©Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company, Inc., 2010). Mr. Robb has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as “by far the most successful helicopter crash trial attorney in the United States.” He has obtained record jury verdicts and settlements in helicopter crash cases which have been recognized as the highest in the United States history.

The helicopter involved was a medical air ambulance operated by Air Methods Corporation, the largest provider of air medical emergency transport services in the United States. According to court documentation, the eight million dollars in settlements was paid by Air Methods for the deaths of Randy Bever (Bever, et al. v. Estate of Freudenberg, Clay County, 11CY-10505), 47, flight paramedic, and Terry Tacoronte (Tacoronte, et al. v. Estate of Freudenberg, Clay County, 11CY-CV10179), 56, the onboard patient.

In last week’s hearing, members of the National Transportation Safety Board expressed worries that distractions from electronic devices are a growing factor leading to crashes in various modes of transportation, including aircraft, trains, cars, trucks, and even ships. As a result of their investigation of this case, the NTSB issued a total of nine safety recommendations to the FAA and to Air Methods Corporation. They also reissued two previously issued recommendations and voted to issue a Safety Alert urging pilots to recognize the threat electronic devices pose and to turn them off both during flight and during critical times before takeoff. They further recommended that Air Methods expand and revise their corporate policies prohibiting the use of electronic devices and requiring supervision of pilots.

The NTSB’s report synopsis and recommendations can be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2013/mosby_mo/Abstract_Mosby_MO.pdf

The helicopter air ambulance industry has had a number of fatal incidents within recent years. In one ten month period alone between December 2007 and October 2008, there were thirteen U.S. helicopter air ambulance crashes resulting in thirty-five deaths. (Alan Levin, “FAA plan would require alarms on air ambulances,” USA Today, April 23, 2009).

Mr. Robb has long advocated for improved safety in the helicopter industry (See “Helicopter Crash Litigation;” Part III: Safety Recommendations for the Helicopter Industry). Mr. Robb has expressed concern that this case may represent the start of a dangerous trend. “Due to the nature of their missions, historically most fatal medical air ambulance helicopter crashes have occurred at night and/or in bad weather conditions. The fact that this crash occurred in daylight hours and in good weather underscores that it was an incident caused by poor judgment and decision making at the most basic level. The public has a right to expect medical helicopter pilots and operators to make safety their highest priority, and to insure, at a minimum, the undivided attention of the pilot and operator.”

For further information, contact Gary C. Robb at 816-474-8080.

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