A jury in Kentucky has awarded the families of three people who died in a medical helicopter crash more than $21 million. Three people died in the June 6, 2013, tragedy, which occurred as the Bell 206 L-1 was approaching its helipad. Although the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the accident on pilot error, the victims’ families filed lawsuits against Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., the company that manufactured the aircraft involved in the accident.
Killed in the helicopter accident were:
• Eddy Sizemore, 61-years-old, the pilot;
• Herman “Lee” Dobbs, 40-years-old, the flight paramedic; and
• Jesse Jones, 28-years-old, the flight nurse.
Lawsuits were filed on behalf of eight family members, who alleged Bell Helicopter knew about potential defects with its aircraft but failed to take appropriate action.
Medical Helicopter Crashed on Return from Patient Flight
The Bell 206 was returning to its base in Manchester, Kentucky, after dropping off a patient at a hospital in London. Only 750 feet from its helipad, the Air Evac Lifeteam flight crashed into an elementary school parking lot.
At around 11:15 p.m., the Air Evac control center recording picked up someone from the helicopter saying “no.” Nothing more is heard from the flight. The forecast was reportedly clear for visual flight, but there were patches of fog. The fog moved in, unfortunately, after the flight had already taken off.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the crash on the pilot becoming disoriented after flying into that fog, finding the pilot became confused thanks to visual cues—such as the ground—being hidden by fog. Data analyzed by the NTSB showed the helicopter underwent maneuvers similar to those a pilot would take to avoid fog, following which the pilot reportedly lost control of the helicopter.
That loss of control, the NTSB found, put stress on the helicopter and caused it to break apart. The NTSB noted the main rotor and tail boom were separated from the cabin while the helicopter was still in the air and landed 300 feet from the cabin, in different directions.
A preliminary report from the NTSB noted that the helicopter was seen “spinning” before it crashed, while at least one witness said the aircraft was in a “nose-up attitude” just before the engine cut out. The helicopter exploded upon impact. The first people to arrive at the wreckage found the helicopter on fire and realized there was nothing they could do to help the victims.
“It was just fire everywhere,” Kenneth Bailey said. “There was nothing we could do, so we just left. It was too late.”