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Helicopter Accident Trial Set to Begin in Los Angeles


SCE faces a lawsuit for the wrongful deaths of four men.

Southern California Edison (SCE) faces a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of four men killed when their helicopter came in contact with an unmarked static grounding wire.

The January 2010 accident resulted in the deaths of three Fresno Fish and Game employees: associate biologist Clu Cotter, 48; biologist supervisor Kevin O’Connor, 40; and Tom Stolberg, 31, a seasonal aide. The trio was conducting an aerial deer survey at the time the accident occurred. The helicopter’s pilot, 70-year-old Palm Springs resident Dennis Donovan, was also killed in the crash.

Donovan, a seasoned Navy veteran with more than 13,500 logged flight hours, was flying a Bell 206 copter in a mountainous part of Madera County in the area of where the San Joaquin River converges with Willow Creek.  The crash occurred when the helicopter became snagged on the unmarked wire that was approximately 100 feet above the heavy transmission power lines. Typically, ground wires are usually suspended within several feet of the main power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the crash to Donovan’s “failure to see and avoid a wire while maneuvering during low-altitude operations.” The lawsuit claims that industry standards require warning devices to be placed on static lines, which SCE failed to do. Southern California Edison asserts that there is no specific requirement regarding which ground lines must be marked.

The crash was witnessed by two U.S. Forest Service employees, who reported seeing the helicopter suddenly jerk backward before it fell to the ground and burst into flames.

Following the crash, the victims’ families each filed separate lawsuits against Southern California Edison and Landells Aviation of Desert Hot Springs, the company that owned the helicopter. The lawsuit against Landells Aviation is based in part on the fact that an autopsy revealed traces of an antihistamine and an opiate in the pilot’s system. The lawsuits were consolidated into a single filing which is scheduled to be heard in Los Angeles Superior Court.

While nothing can bring back their loved ones, the victims’ families may find some comfort if they are able to prove their wrongful death claim against SCE and Landells Aviation. If if it is determined that the men were killed as a result of negligence on the part of Southern California Edison and/or the helicopter’s owner, the victims’ families will then be entitled to receive compensation for their deaths. A victory may also require SCE to implement enhanced safety measures, which could prevent similar accidents in the future.

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed as a result of a helicopter accident stemming from carelessness or negligence, you may also have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. You need to speak with a qualified helicopter accident attorney today to get the help you need to protect your rights.

The law firm of Nadrich & Cohen is dedicated to helping helicopter accident victims and their families get the compensation they deserve for their physical injuries, emotional trauma, and lost wages. Call us today at 1-800-718-4658 for your free initial case evaluation case. We charge no fee unless we win a settlement for you. Contact us now to get the legal representation you need to win your helicopter accident injury case.

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