While the investigation into the January 4, 2009 crash of a PHI helicopter in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana is still in its early stages, given the past accident history involving PHI and this Sikorsky S-76C model helicopter, design and maintenance issues must be closely scrutinized.
The crash occurred only minutes into its ferry flight to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, and tragically resulted in the deaths of 7 passengers and both pilots with one survivor in critical condition.
Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (PHI) owns, operates and maintains one of the largest private helicopter fleets in the world and employs hundreds of pilots and mechanics. While it generally enjoys a good safety reputation, it has had its share of fatal accidents.
The S-76C helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Helicopters of Stratford, Connecticut and powered by 2 engines made by Turbomeca Arriel of France has had a variety of design, manufacturing and maintenance problems in recent years.
For example, the same model helicopter crashed into the sea near Estonia a few years ago. The Kreindler firm represented some of the decedents' families from that crash and conducted its own investigation during the successful litigation. Our investigation revealed that a servo, which was involved in controlling the helicopter's main rotors, became jammed when a coating inside the servo flaked off and contaminated the servo to the point where it caused an abrupt jam of the rotors during flight. This, in turn, caused the helicopter to become uncontrollable and crash. After the crash, authorities urged periodic inspections and testing on the servos and fluids that would detect the contamination before it reached a dangerous condition.
The families of the victims of this crash should be aided in their ability to find out what happened by the recovery of the Flight Data (FDR) and Cockpit Voice (CVR) Recorders which are being downloaded by the NTSB in Washington as well as maintenance action recorders and records maintained by PHI.
In addition to investigating and successfully litigating dozens of cases involving Sikorsky and Turbomeca products, the Kreindler firm successfully represented and exonerated a deceased PHI helicopter pilot who was killed when the pitch change link on the aircraft's tail rotor malfunctioned resulting in the loss of the helicopter's tail boom and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter while on approach to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kreindler & Kreindler is fortunate to have several lawyers who are former military helicopter pilots with commercial licenses and a former helicopter mechanic and crew chief, all of whom successfully and routinely, investigate and prosecute helicopter crash cases on behalf of surviving family members.
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