According to the FAA, helicopter accidents occur on an average of 20 times per 100,000 flying hours in the U.S. This statistic illustrates the potential danger of flying a helicopter. It brings awareness to the fact that, despite many safety measures in place, helicopter accidents happen.
In this case, Jonathan Udall, 31, and his wife, Ellie, were on vacation in Las Vegas. As well as celebrating one of the group members' 30th birthday, the Udalls were celebrating their recent marriage.
In a settlement approved by a Nevada judge on Friday, Jonathan's parents will receive $24.6 million from Papillon Airways Inc., which operated the helicopter, and $75 million from Airbus Helicopters SAS, which manufactured it.
As a result of the helicopter's lack of a crash-resistant fuel system, plaintiffs claimed that the helicopter was unsafe to fly. As a result of the crash, the Udall’s son, Jonathan, was left with burns on 90% of his body when the helicopter burst into flames on impact. After 12 days in an intensive burn unit, Udall succumbed to his injuries.
Gary C. Robb, the family's lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, said the terms of the settlement must be made public. Mr. Udall's parents want to raise awareness about aircraft fuel tanks that are more likely to rupture. The family of the deceased says the fuel tank was basically a firebomb, Attorney Robb told the press. He went on to say that the plaintiffs insisted the settlement terms be made public to raise awareness about aircraft fuel tank explosions.
The defendants’ lawyers, Eric Lyttle for Airbus Helicopters Inc., and William Katt for Papillon Airways confirmed the terms as per a transcript of a hearing in Clark County District Court.
Helicopter crashes involving tourists are not uncommon. From 1984 to 2022, 54 commercial helicopters crashed in the Hawaiian Islands, on average one to two per year. 57 people were killed in 15 fatal crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Most of these fatal crashes were caused by pilots flying into deteriorating weather conditions. Hawaii helicopter crashes are also caused by pilot error, inadequate maintenance, and mechanical defects.
Expert Witness Involvement
This case required experts in aviation, particularly recreational helicopter mechanical expertise, and regulations, in addition to an expert in aircraft fuel tanks. A damages consultant would opine and provide supportive evidence for the claim.