GE en­gine faulted for crash that killed 9

The Washington Times Daily - - Business -

PORT­LAND | An Ore­gon jury ruled Tues­day a prob­lem with an en­gine was re­spon­si­ble for the 2008 crash of a he­li­copter that killed nine fire­fight­ers dur­ing a wild­fire in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

The jury in Port­land reached its ver­dict af­ter a pi­lot who sur­vived and the widow of one who was killed sued Gen­eral Elec­tric for $177 mil­lion.

The plain­tiffs ar­gued the com­pany knew the en­gines it made for the Siko­rsky S-61N he­li­copter had a de­sign flaw mak­ing them un­safe.

GE coun­tered that the he­li­copter crashed be­cause it was car­ry­ing too much weight when it took off af­ter pick­ing up a fire­fight­ing crew at the Iron 44 wild­fire in the Shasta-trin­ity Na­tional For­est near Weaverville, Calif.

“They’re he­roes,” said plain­tiff’s at­tor­ney Greg An­der­son of the pi­lots, Wil­liam Coul­tas and Roark Sch­wa­nen­berg. “They saved as many peo­ple as they could. They have been pil­lo­ried be­fore this.”

The chop­per was air­borne less than a minute when it clipped a tree and fell from the sky, burst­ing into flames.

Four peo­ple sur­vived, in­clud­ing Mr. Coul­tas, of Cave Junc­tion.

The plain­tiffs and their fam­i­lies in court Tues­day dabbed their eyes and ex­changed stiff hand­shakes with GE’S at­tor­neys. They de­clined to speak with re­porters af­ter the ver­dict was read.

Af­ter a two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board con­cluded in 2010 that too much weight and a lack of over­sight caused the crash.

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