Officials believe a San Francisco helicopter crash has killed eight firefighters and one pilot involved in battling a wildfire in Northern California. According to an Associated Press news report, the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter was destroyed after it crashed in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Officials have still not been able to pinpoint why the accident occurred. Four others who were in the helicopter suffered severe burns. Two are in critical condition.
Some of the firefighters, including those in the hospital, were reportedly employed by firefighting contractor Grayback Forestry, based in Merlin, Oregon. The helicopter was owned and operated by Carson Helicopters Inc., a Pennsylvania company whose firefighting operations are based in Grants Pass, Oregon.
There are several possibilities for what went wrong and who is responsible for this fatal helicopter accident. Officials are still trying to recover the bodies of the helicopter accident victims from the wreckage. Please keep the victims and their families in your prayers.
Many questions arise out of this incident. Was this a pilot error? Was it an air traffic controller’s error? Was it a maintenance issue? Or was it caused by a defective part? The injured men will get their workers’ compensation benefits. But they and their families will also find out that the benefits they are entitled to through California’s workers’ compensation system are embarrassingly low.
If this helicopter accident and the resulting injuries are the fault of a third party, the injured and the families of the deceased will be entitled to the full measure of compensation – as much as 20 times what the workers’ compensation system will provide. A third party would be the pilot, air traffic control, spotters, whomever was responsible for maintenance of the helicopter and so. A third party is pretty much anyone other than an employer or co-employee.
The National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating and trying to determine what went wrong. Information from the witnesses of the crash and the survivors will hopefully help NTSB officials in their investigation. Many times, NTSB investigations take years to come to a conclusion and for a fault or cause to be determined.
The survivors and the families of those who perished in this crash should all be consulting attorneys knowledgeable in aircraft accident cases to know and understand their rights and options. It’s important to bear in mind that any claim against a governmental agency must be properly presented within 180 days of the accident.
I’d bet that NTSB officials would not have completed their report or may have even arrived on a cause by the end of that 180-day period. That means that victims and families who make their claims must do so before knowing what the NTSB attributes the crash too. Also keep in mind that the NTSB’s assessment of cause is not binding in a court.