The family of a woman killed in a sightseeing helicopter crash in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., last April, has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the aircraft, alleging negligence in maintaining the helicopter and hiring its pilots.
Keith Morvant and Lynne Frederick, the husband and mother of Johna Morvant respectively, filed the lawsuit against Great Smoky Mountains Helicopters and owner Bobby Riggs in a Tennessee federal court, seeking unspecified compensation and damages for Ms. Morvant’s alleged wrongful death.
Ms. Morvant, 49, of Kodak, Tenn., was killed in the April 4 crash with her two children, Peyton Rasmussen, 22, and Parker Rasmussen, 18, of North Carolina. Peyton and Parker lived in North Carolina and had been visiting their mother in Tennessee.
Also killed in the crash were Michael Mastalez, 21, of Texas, and pilot Jason Dahl, 39. Mr. Mastalez was reportedly Peyton Rasmussen’s boyfriend.
The plaintiffs claim that “Riggs had a duty to exercise reasonable care as an owner of the helicopter when operating, servicing, inspecting and/or certifying same as airworthy,” according to court documents. “The helicopter crash and subsequent death were the direct and proximate result of the negligent acts and omissions and conduct of Riggs and his agents,” the plaintiffs allege.
The documents also claim that Mr. Riggs and his company failed to properly maintain the Bell 206 helicopter and conduct a pre-flight inspection of it.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash but has not yet determined the cause, but a witness it interviewed said that it sounded like the helicopter was experiencing engine problems before it crashed and exploded.
The aircraft went down around 3:30 p.m. near a large outlet mall and neighborhood in Sevierville just off the main tourist strip, about three miles from Dolly Parton’s Dollywood amusement park.
By the time emergency responders reached the crash, fire had consumed nearly everything except part of the tail fin and a small piece of the console. Nobody on the ground was injured.