GE engine faulted for crash that killed 9
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.