When an aircraft crashes, lawsuits look at a wide range of factors to determine who is responsible for what went wrong. In one recent crash, however, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed to an unusual problem. It concluded that a billionaire’s 5-year-old daughter likely caused a helicopter to crash, killing the girl, her three family members and the pilot.
This conclusion will probably have a big effect on the ongoing wrongful death lawsuits related to this helicopter crash. By focusing attention on human factors, the NTSB’s investigation might help the other defendants, including the manufacturer and maintenance crews.
The report looked at various sources of evidence to conclude that the girl was riding in her father’s lap in the copilot’s seat. While sitting there, it appears that she accidentally kicked or pushed the flight controls located directly in front of her. This pushed the helicopter into a dangerously steep dive – when the pilot tried to recover, the sudden change in trajectory caused the rotors to flex and destroy the helicopter’s tail.
This might affect liability in several ways. First, the NTSB noted that the pilot should not have allowed a child to be anywhere near the copilot’s seat. This could suggest that the pilot’s failure to maintain “cockpit discipline” was a significant contributing factor. Second, the girl’s father could also be liable for irresponsibly seating his daughter where she could reach the controls.
It remains to be seen how the rest of this litigation will unfold – some parties are already disputing the NTSB report but it seems likely that it will play a big role in deciding what went wrong.
Source: Fox 10 News, “NTSB: Young girl likely kicked controls in chopper,” Jill Monier, Nov. 10, 2012