Last Thursday's crash (January 17, 2008) of a U.S. Navy MH-53 helicopter is similar in several respects to two other recent military crashes that have been litigated by Kreindler & Kreindler LLP of New York.
Although it is too early to tell and a full accident investigation will take place, there are some significant safety issues which may be implicated in yesterday's MH-53 crash. For example, based on preliminary information and witness reports there may have been a pre-impact fire which suggests a possible product defect. Other reports suggest the helicopter may have struck a television tower which suggests possible operational negligence with respect to the tower lighting or markings.
On the product side, Kreindler recently settled with the MH-53's manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, and its engine manufacturer, General Electric Company on behalf of several military families.
"Although the workhorse of the U.S. Navy's aviation fleet, the MH-53 and its engines have a series of design defects that we have discovered in recent litigation," comments Attorney Francis G. Fleming of Kreindler, a former U.S. Marine Corps aviator who flew CH-53A and CH-53D helicopters in combat in Viet Nam in 1969. Mr. Fleming cautions that he cannot provide further details of his firm's most recent MH-53 case against Sikorsky and General Electric because of a confidential settlement and technical details of the defective design that are the subject of a protective order.
Attorney Michael R. Sherwin of Kreindler, who assisted Mr. Fleming in the MH-53E case, notes that "the MH-53 series helicopter has been involved in a string of several significant military accidents over its entire lifetime. In fact, several years ago the U.S. Marine Corps grounded its entire fleet of MH-53 helicopter because of serious safety of flight concerns. Needless to say, serious problems continue to exist with this helicopter." Like Mr. Fleming, Mr. Sherwin is a former veteran who served as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer in support of both Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). Also assisting on the case was attorney James H. Furman of Byrd Davis & Furman, Austin, Texas, a former U.S. Army aviator with a distinguished combat record in Viet Nam.
There is also a potential operational issue that should be examined during the investigation. Initial press reports mention that the accident happened in fog and that the aircraft may have hit a television tower. Kreindler is presently involved in litigation involving another military helicopter which struck an unlit television tower. We expect that the official investigation will examine the FAA and FCC regulations governing tower lighting, marking and repair. Mr. Sherwin and Kreindler partner Brian J. Alexander are working on this wire strike case. Mr. Alexander is a West Point graduate and decorated Army aviator who has been involved in several high profile military crash cases, including two MV-22 Osprey crashes.
Kreindler & Kreindler has handled countless military aircraft accident cases, which often involve very complex factual matters and legal defenses, such as the military contractor defense, Boyle v. UTC, 487 U.S. 500 (1988). For nearly fifty years, Kreindler & Kreindler has successfully represented the interests of our military service members killed in the line of duty.
Kreindler & Kreindler LLP can be reached at (212) 687-8181.