Sightseeing helicopters are at some of the most popular tourist areas in the country: Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and of course the lush islands of Hawaii. For most, it is an enjoyable “bird’s eye view” of these wonders. But for those involved in a tour helicopter crash, the flight can be anything but enjoyable.
“I just saw the helicopter in flames, and basically there was black smoke everywhere,” told one eyewitness of the recent Catalina Island helicopter crash. “It was still on fire, with all this black smoke and it was making popping noises.”
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The tour helicopter crashed on May 24, 2008 near Two Harbors on the west side of Catalina Island. It seemed to be on a sightseeing tour of the island, and was over the ocean when it apparently had engine trouble. Three people were killed in the crash, and three others were injured – two critically.
The cause of the accident is unknown as of this writing. Although pilot error is overwhelmingly the number one reason for helicopter crashes, it seems that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will likely be looking at some sort of mechanical failure as the primary cause.
Hawaii Helicopter Crash Rates Among Highest
Of all tourist destinations, Hawaii seems to have one of the highest tour helicopter crash rates in the country. From January 2003 to July 2008, the NTSB lists 36 helicopter crashes, many of which involved tour companies. During that time, there were 24 pilots and passengers killed.
One reason for the high accident rate is the sheer numbers: it is estimated that 1 in 10 visitors to the state take a helicopter sightseeing tour during their visit, amounting to about 120,000 passengers yearly.
But that is not the only cause. In some fatal accidents, bad decisions on the part of the pilots has been cited as the primary cause of the crash. During one incident on September 23, 2005, a pilot knowingly entered a localized “microburst” or mini-rain storm that is common around the Hawaiian islands. This caused the pilot to lose control of the helicopter and crash into the ocean.
In contrast, Grand Canyon helicopter crash rates are relatively low. During the same time period as above, there was only one fatal accident that unfortunately claimed the lives of all seven people on board. Pilot error caused the helicopter to hit the side of the canyon wall.
Liability for Tour Helicopter Crash Murky
Even if pilot error is the primary cause of a tour helicopter crash, there may be other factors involved. Weather conditions, helicopter ownership, helicopter maintenance, helicopter design, and many other factors may have an impact – and may make getting compensation difficult.
If you or a loved one has been in a helicopter crash, don’t leave it up to chance, and whatever you do, don’t accept any settlement offers. Talk to David P. Willis before you make any decisions. Mr. Willis has years of experience helping victims like you get the compensation they deserve for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our law firm will give you a free, no-obligation legal review of your case, and let you know what you can expect so that you can make an informed decision. Contact our offices right now for your free review.