Kreindler Successfully Represents Families of Victims in Fatal 'Doors Off' Liberty Helicopters Crash in NYC's East River
Successful Settlement in ‘Doors Off’ Helicopter Lawsuit
Kreindler successfully represented two families who lost loved ones in the fatal helicopter crash on New York City’s East River in March 2018. On the day of the crash, the AS350B2 helicopter was conducting a “doors off” sight-seeing flight over and around New York Harbor and the isle of Manhattan. Passengers were encouraged to turn in their seats or move to the edge of the cabin doors and dangle their feet out of the helicopter to take “shoe selfies” that could be posted on social media.
Passengers were encouraged to turn in their seats or move to the edge of the cabin’s doors and dangle their feet out of the helicopter to take “shoe selfies” that could be posted on social media.
In order for passengers to do this, the sightseeing company, FlyNYON, and the flight’s operator, Liberty Helicopters, made them wear harnesses that anchored into the helicopter using tethers that were then attached from the helicopter to the passengers’ backs. However, these harness systems were never approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Additionally, these harness systems, developed by Liberty Helicopters, were assembled using “off-the-shelf” components intended for other activities like rock climbing or construction work. The helicopter tour passengers were told that the only way they could remove the harnesses in an emergency was by using a small cutter located on one of the harness straps.
During the fatal flight, one of the passenger’s harness tethers became tangled with the fuel levers and subsequently the helicopter lost power. The pilot attempted an emergency landing in the East River and deployed emergency floats designed to keep the aircraft upright in the water. The floats, however, failed to properly inflate and the helicopter flipped upside down in the river. The pilot was not wearing one of the poorly designed safety harnesses and was able to unbuckle from his seat restraints and escape the aircraft. Meanwhile, the passengers were trapped in the helicopter. All five passengers tragically drowned in the East River.
Kreindler pursued claims against the helicopter and tour operators, as well as the manufacturers of the helicopter and of the emergency floats.
This case presented several challenges that frequently come into play in a General Aviation accident as opposed to a Commercial Aviation accident. Kreindler partner and commercially-licensed pilot Justin Green, along with Kreindler Of Counsel attorney Steve Pounian, authored an aviation law article for the New York Law Journal, Challenges in General Aviation Accident Litigation, offering additional legal insight into challenges presented in these types of cases.
In order for the firm to properly identify the causes and hold the various parties responsible, the Kreindler team enlisted its own experts and investigated the circumstances of this complex, but senseless, tragedy while the NTSB investigation continued.
The entire concept of an open door flight that requires the type of harness seen in the East River crash fails the common sense test. It's unsafe overall and it's not a position any passenger should ever be put in.
After extensive research into the design and implementation of the various components — along with the FAA’s flawed regulation of these helicopter tour operators and the horrible experience of the victims in this tragedy — Kreindler initiated a pre-trial jury research process in an effort to understand potential outcomes. Following a strong legal effort on behalf of our clients, Kreindler was able to engage in successful alternative dispute resolution and resolve the families’ claims against all parties through an out-of-court settlement.
Kreindler Experience with Aviation Sightseeing and Tour Accidents and the AS350B2
Kreindler attorneys Brian Alexander, Justin Green and Dan Rose are former military pilots and each have extensive flying experience. Kreindler is currently representing a family on behalf of victims killed in another tour crash, a Eurocopter AS350 that crashed in Hawaii in 2019. Kreindler has successfully litigated additional tragedies involving the AS350 model helicopter, including:
- Hudson River midair collision involving a sightseeing Eurocopter AS350B2 Helicopter
- Grand Canyon tour accident involving a Eurocopter AS350B2 near Las Vegas, NV
- Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Eurocopter MBB BK 117B-2 helicopter crash into the East River, NY
We wrote the book
Kreindler has literally written the book on aviation accident law. Our partners have authored numerous highly acclaimed books, articles and treatises, including the leading treatise in the aviation litigation field, Aviation Accident Law.
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler is one of the largest and most distinguished aviation accident law firms in the world. Since 1950, our attorneys have served as lead counsel in nearly every major commercial aviation disaster litigation. Our staff of attorneys includes four commercially licensed helicopter pilots and one former helicopter maintenance specialist (who is also a graduate of the NTSB Accident Investigation Course). The firm has successfully handled countless private, charter, military, general aviation and helicopter accident cases. Our partners have authored numerous highly acclaimed books, articles and treatises on aviation litigation, including the leading treatise in the field, Aviation Accident Law.