Two wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against Sundance Helicopters Inc., the Las Vegas, Nevada-based aerial tour company that lost one of its aircraft December 7 in a remote canyon near Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, killing four passengers and the pilot.
The helicopter, piloted by Landon Nield, 31, was taking two couples on a twilight tour of the glittery Las Vegas strip and surrounding attractions when it crashed into a rocky ravine. Delwin and Tamara Chapman of Utica, Kansas, both 49 and parents of four children, went to Vegas to celebrate their 25th anniversary and renew their wedding vows. Newlyweds Anupama Bhola, 26, and Lovish Bhanot, 28, residents of New Delhi, India, were on their honeymoon. Mr. Nield and all four passengers died at the scene.
The lawyer representing the families of both couples killed in the crash told the Associated Press he will consolidate evidence collection for both cases, but seeks to have the cases tried separately. Both lawsuits were filed last month in a Nevada court.
According to the Associated Press, the lawyer for the plaintiffs believes that either pilot error or mechanical failure caused the crash. National Transportation Safety Board data shows the six-seat helicopter started flying erratically about one minute before it spun into the side of a rock face.
The day before the 22-year-old helicopter crashed, it underwent an engine replacement in addition to two servo-actuators in the tail and main rotor. The helicopter made one test flight and two passenger tours before it crashed. Images of the crash scene showing two charred impact areas on the canyon wall and other NTSB data indicate the engine was producing power when it crashed. Mr. Nield never radioed an emergency before the helicopter went down.
Investigators from the French investigation agency Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) were also probing the crash because the Aerospatiale AS350-B2 was made in France. The NTSB has said it could take up to a year to complete its investigation.