Washington Port Commissioner Faces Suit over Helicopter Crash

Three people have filed a personal injury lawsuit against a Port of Skagit commissioner over alleged injuries sustained in a helicopter crash near Cypress Island.

Helicopter passengers Christopher Neibauer and Ashley Walker, and Hannah Neibauer, who is married to Christopher Neibauer, filed the civil complaint in Skagit County Superior Court in Decemeber against Kevin Ware and his company Peregrine Air LLC., The Skagit Valley Herald reported.

The lawsuit says Ware provided services as a helicopter pilot on Aug. 20, 2019, to Skagit County boat manufacturer Aspen Catamarans for an aerial photo shoot of a catamaran. Christopher Neibauer was hired by Aspen Catamarans as a photographer.

As Ware flew the helicopter during the photo shoot, it hit a tree branch and the helicopter “was thrown to the right and hit the water,” the lawsuit states.

Walker got out of the helicopter and helped Ware exit, the lawsuit states. Ware went to shore, and Walker returned to help Neibauer, who was in the helicopter “completely submerged underwater,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs allege the crash resulted in severe and permanent physical injuries, mental anguish and emotional distress. It contends the injuries occurred as a result of the “negligent acts and omissions of defendants Kevin Ware and Peregrine” in the preflight planning, maintenance and operation of the helicopter.

They seek an unspecified amount of compensation for economic damages, including medical expenses, and for pain and suffering.

Ware’s response, filed Jan. 22, denies the crash and resulting injuries were caused by his negligence. It says the “plaintiffs’ injuries and damages were proximately caused by the fault of Ashley Walker.” He is requesting that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice.

Ware was elected Skagit port commissioner in 2001 and represents District 1, which covers the Mount Vernon area.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the crash. In the board’s final report, it determined the probable cause of the crash was “the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance from a tree while maneuvering at a low altitude.”