A Kentucky jury has awarded $21.7 million to the families of three people who were killed in June 2013 when the Bell Helicopter used for medical evacuations they were in crashed in an elementary school parking lot.
The Clay County jury announced its decision in favor of the eight plaintiffs after a three-week trial that ended with five hours of deliberation.
Lawyers for the family members argued that the Bell Helicopter and its parent company Textron were aware of defects in its Bell 206L-1 helicopters but chose not to address the problem.
The crash occurred about 750 feet from the helipad it was supposed to land on, killing pilot and retired sheriff’s deputy Eddy Sizemore, 61; paramedic Herman “Lee” Dobbs, 40; and Jesse Jones, 28.
According to the Associated Press, a lawyer for the plaintiffs alleged that there was a critical defect in the helicopter’s main rotor blade that caused the tail broom and roof to break off, causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft.
Witnesses on the ground said the Bell helicopter had been flying abnormally low and was spinning in the moments before it crashed.
A plaintiff’s lawyer argued that Bell Helicopter executives have admitted knowledge of this defect for more than two decades and said the families are urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigate the Texas-based company, which is owned by Textron of Providence, Rhode Island. The lawyer said he planned to file a complaint with the FAA about Bell Helicopter.
The jury’s decision means it found Bell Helicopter made the aircraft’s component “in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user,” and that the alleged defect contributed significantly to the deadly crash, the AP reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the crash but did not determine a definitive cause, saying the Bell Helicopter probably crashed because the pilot became disoriented and lost control of the aircraft in foggy nighttime conditions.
Bell Helicopter said it would appeal the jury’s decision, adding that the investigators found no design or manufacturing defects with the helicopter or its parts, according to the AP.