The family of a flight nurse killed in a Decatur County medical helicopter crash in August has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for her death. Sandra Pearson was killed along with the pilot, a paramedic, and the base manager, when the rotor came off their Bell 206 Longranger before it crashed in a field outside Burney, which is about 40 miles southeast of Indianapolis. The lawsuit, filed late last month in Marion Superior Court, names as Defendants Rolls-Royce, the helicopter’s engine maker; Decatur County REMC, the utility responsible for maintaining power lines in the area; Rushville Memorial Hospital, which dispatched the helicopter; and Bell Helicopter Textron, the rotor manufacturer.
Rush Memorial Hospital contracted with Missouri-based Air Evac EMS, which owned and operated the helicopter, to provide air ambulance services. What caused the rotor blades to break in the August 31st crash has not been determined. The National Traffic Safety Board’s investigation is ongoing. According to the NTSB’s interim factual report, the crew had left a fundraising event at a fire station in Burney about 1:20 p.m., destined for the aircraft’s base in Rushville. Witnesses said they saw helicopter parts separate from the craft in flight before it crashed about a mile from the fire station. The rotor blades were found broken on the ground about 200 yards from the body of the helicopter.
Maintenance records show the helicopter was inspected ten days before the crash, the same day a low rumble and vibration from the rear of the aircraft was detected. The lawsuit alleges that engine maker Rolls-Royce failed to properly warn operators that a rumbling noise or vibration “was not engine-related but could signify an impending fatigue fracture of the main rotor blade.” It accuses Bell Helicopter of selling the helicopter’s rotor blades in defective condition. It also accuses Rush Memorial Hospital of dispatching the helicopter on an unsafe flight path, sending it on a non-emergency mission and failing to develop flight-risk evaluation programs.
Since 2000, there have been 125 air medical helicopter accidents, including one so far this year, according to NTSB data. The agency has made safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding emergency medical services aircraft. Some of the recommendations include requiring operators to implement flight risk evaluation programs and use formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures. A bill introduced in Congress this year, the Air Medical Safety Act, would establish more streamlined safety standards. Gary Robb, a very good lawyer from Kansas City, filed the suit on behalf of the two Pearson children.
Source: Indianapolis Starr
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