The families of two people killed in a Duke Life Flight helicopter crash in North Carolina last year are suing the manufacturers of the aircraft and its engine, alleging that an oil line defect led to the crash.
The Perquimans Weekly reports that the helicopter crash lawsuit was filed by the families of Mary Bartlett, a patient who was being airlifted Duke Hospital and Duke Life Flight nurse Kristopher Harrison.
All four people aboard the helicopter were killed in the Sept. 8, 2017 crash. The other two victims were pilot Jeff Burke and Duke Life Flight nurse Crystal Sollinger.
The helicopter was on its way from Sentara Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Duke Hospital in Durham when it crashed in a field in Belvidere, in the far northeast corner of the state.
The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Safran Helicopter Engines, a French corporation that manufactured the helicopter’s engines; its U.S. distributor, Safran USA, Inc.; Airbus Helicopters Deutschland GmbH, the German company that manufactured the helicopter; and its U.S. distributor, Airbus Helicopters Inc, according to The Perquimans Weekly.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Air Methods Corp., a Colorado-based contractor that Duke University Health System hired to operate the Life Flight program, including providing the pilots and mechanics; and the pilot’s estate.
Witnesses of the helicopter crash reported seeing smoke trailing from the rear of the helicopter before it crashed, according to The Durham Herald-Sun.
While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hasn’t issued a final report on its investigation of the helicopter crash, it indicated in an early report the presence of a potential problem connected to the manufacture and/or maintenance of the aircraft’s engine:
The No. 2 engine rear turbine shaft bearing exhibited discoloration consistent with overheating and lack of lubrication. The bearing roller pins were worn down to the surface of the bearing race. The end of the turbine shaft aft of the nut exhibited rotational nonuniform damage.
According to The Herald-Sun, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a special advisory suggesting a link between the Duke Life Flight helicopter crash and a similar helicopter crash that occurred in South Dakota about eight months before the Duke Life Flight helicopter crash. According to the FAA’s advisory, there is evidence that both of the helicopter crashes may have been caused by a blocked oil line.