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MailTribune.com
  • Fatal helicopter crash subject of new civil suit

  • Another wrongful death suit has been filed in conjunction with the crash of a Carson Helicopter fighting a fire in Northern California last summer.
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  • Another wrongful death suit has been filed in conjunction with the crash of a Carson Helicopter fighting a fire in Northern California last summer.
    The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court Friday, seeks $8 million on behalf of Shawn Blazer's estate, represented by his mother, Verna Wilson, from the aircraft's owner, manufacturers and a maintenance company.
    Blazer, 30, of Medford, was one of nine men killed Aug. 5 when the helicopter crashed moments after take-off while transporting crews battling a complex of wildland fires in and around Northern California's Trinity Alps Wilderness.
    The suit names Carson Helicopters Inc. and its subsidiary Carson Helicopter Services Inc.; helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and its parent company United Technologies Corp.; engine maker General Electric Co.; and Columbia Helicopters Inc., a maintenance company based in Aurora.
    It alleges that the helicopter, its clutches, fuel-control units and other components were defective, and the involved companies were negligent in designing, manufacturing, maintaining and operating the aircraft without adequate warning of possible dangers.
    The suit, filed by Eugene attorney Art Johnson, is the latest in a string of civil cases stemming from the crash. Two other suits, each seeking $10 million, were filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court last month on behalf of the estates of Matthew Hammer, 23, of Grants Pass, and Bryan Rich, 29, of Medford.
    The estate and parents of Phoenix firefighter Scott Charlson, 25, filed suit in September in Shasta County Superior Court in Redding, Calif.
    That case names Carson, Sikorsky, United Technologies and General Electric as defendants, and alleges that design flaws and negligent maintenance might have caused the crash. In November, that case was moved to federal court in Sacramento.
    In December, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., the workers' compensation provider for Carson pilot Roark Schwanenberg, who died in the crash, sued Columbia, GE and Sikorsky in federal court in Sacramento. The insurance company paid workers' compensation and death benefits to Schwanenberg's family, thereby gaining the legal authority to recover damages in an amount to be set at trial, the suit said.
    The insurance company's suit prompted Columbia to sue Carson in Oregon federal court in Eugene in December, claiming that a maintenance contract between the two companies protected Columbia from liability suits, but Carson was breaching the contract by not protecting Columbia from suits.
    Johnson said additional negligence and liability suits are expected from others killed or injured in the crash. He said attorneys representing the victims are acquainted and could coordinate their cases. He also noted that the court could consolidate cases that make similar claims.
    Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.
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