Widower of EMT in Air Ambulance Helicopter Crash Sues FAA in Lawsuit

The widower of a Waldorf emergency medical technician who perished in a September 2008 medevac air ambulance helicopter crash in District Heights has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that air traffic controller negligence in failing to guide the aircraft to a safe landing led to the death of his wife.

Kenneth Mallard, whose wife, Tonya Mallard, 39, of Waldorf was an EMT for the Waldorf Volunteer Rescue Squad, filed a $7 million federal lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration on July 21st, 2010 in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The lawsuit claims the FAA did not do everything necessary to ensure a safe landing for the Maryland State Police Trooper 2 air ambulance helicopter. The attorney for Kenneth Mallard stated that Mr. Mallard deserves to be compensated because of the negligence of the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic controllers.

Tonya Mallard was one of four people who died on Sept. 27, 2008, aboard the air ambulance helicopter that crashed into a wooded area of Walker Mill Regional Park.

State police pilot Stephen J. Bunker, 59, of Waldorf; Trooper 1st Class Mickey C. Lippy, 34, of Westminster; and Ashley J. Younger, 17, of Waldorf also died in the crash. Jordan Wells of Waldorf, then 18, was the lone crash survivor. He later filed a $50 million personal-injury lawsuit against the FAA that was denied.

In May 2010, Lippy’s widow, Christina P. Lippy of Westminster, also filed a lawsuit against the FAA for $15 million on behalf of her husband, a Maryland State Police flight paramedic.

The Mallard lawsuit states that Tonya Mallard and all of the occupants should have been properly warned about adverse weather conditions and that she suffered “pre-impact fright” because she was aware of the difficulties Bunker had with navigating the helicopter before she died from the impact of the crash. FAA air traffic controllers gave him outdated flight visibility information that made navigation difficult for Bunker, court documents state.

The helicopter came from a vehicle crash in Waldorf that involved Younger and Wells and was en route to Joint Base Andrews near Camp Springs, where an ambulance was waiting to transport them to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly. Foggy weather conditions prevented the helicopter from going directly to Prince George’s Hospital Center.

During the flight Bunker could not pick up a GlideScope, a navigation system to help guide an aircraft to the runway. While in contact with the air traffic controller at Andrews’ tower, the controller replied, “It’s [the GlideScope] showing green on the panel, but you’re the only aircraft we’ve had in a long time, so I don’t really know if it’s working or not,” court documents state.

Shortly before midnight, Bunker requested ground-based radar called an “airport surveillance radar approach” to reach the runway, but was told by an FAA air traffic controller at Andrews that she could not give him that service, court documents state. The court documents did not indicate whether the air traffic controller who discussed the GlideScope with Bunker was the same one who could not provide “airport surveillance radar approach” service.

No more attempts were made to contact Bunker before the helicopter crashed in Walker Mill Regional Park.

A spokesman for the FAA Eastern Region office, stated that the FAA cannot comment on pending lawsuits such as Lippy’s and Mallard’s.

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