The parents of a toddler killed in an October medical helicopter crash in suburban Chicago filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week, claiming known safety measures could have prevented the girl’s death.
The emergency transport company, its operator and the deceased pilot should have taken precautions such as installing better equipment and having two pilots, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
An Air Angels helicopter carrying 1-year-old Kirstin Blockinger crashed in Aurora on Oct. 15 after clipping a wire to a radio tower, killing her and all three crew members.
Brooke and Robert Blockinger, the girl’s parents, want new federal safety rules for such flights and hope to spur faster action by the Federal Aviation Administration, said attorney Jim Hall of Chicago’s Nolan Law Group, which represents the couple.
“What we have seen is an epidemic of these incidents across the nation,” said Hall, who chaired the National Transportation Safety Board from 1993 to 2001.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Air Angels Inc., Reach Medical Holdings Inc., and the estate of pilot Del Waugh, of Carmel, Ind., who died in the crash.
Air Angels spokesman Bill Bradley said the company can’t comment until it learns more about the lawsuit. But he called the situation a tragedy and said the company extends sympathies to all involved.
An attorney representing the defendants didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Fatal medical helicopter crashes jumped last year, with 28 deaths in seven fatal accidents, according to the NTSB. In 2007, there were seven deaths in two fatal crashes.
The board will hold a hearing on the topic beginning Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C. Its final report on the Illinois crash is expected later this year. A preliminary report found no sign of mechanical failure.
The Air Angels helicopter was carrying the toddler to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago from Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, where she was taken after suffering seizures. Killed along with the child and the 69-year-old pilot were paramedic Ronald Battiato, 41, and nurse William Mann, 31.
The NTSB has recommended that operators install Terrain Awareness Warning Systems (TAWS) on medical helicopters. The system warns pilots when helicopters are in danger of crashing into the ground or obstacles. The board said operators could install TAWS now, but some companies have said they’re waiting for the FAA to act.
The toddler’s parents are interested in “responsibility and accountability,” Hall said of his clients. “They want the opportunity to impact changes to make this system safer.”
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.