Helicopter maker sued for crash

Posted on Jan 13 1999

The mother of a pilot who died in a helicopter crash two years ago sued the manufacturer of the aircraft for negligence yesterday.

Sue Caldwell, who was also appointed by the court as representative of the estate of Brian Caldwell, brought the action against Enstrom Helicopter Corp. and an unidentified insurance company.

Caldwell was joined by Seiichi Hanami, a passenger of the aircraft who sustained serious injuries from the crash, and Micronesian Aviation Corp. dba Macaw Helicopter Co. Lawyer William Fitzgerald filed the lawsuit.

Macaw brought its helicopter from Enstrom and since 1991, Enstrom has sold spare parts and manuals to Macaw and shipped them to the CNMI.

Brian was a resident of the CNMI and an employee of Macaw Helicopter when the incident happened in Jan. 12, 1997.

A licensed helicopter pilot, Brian took off from the Macaw heliport at Coral Oceal Point Golf Course with two Japanese tourists, including Hanami, as passengers in the aircraft for a sightseeing flight of Saipan.

At approximately 4 p.m. while in the vicinity of the Grand Hotel and within 10 minutes of its destination, which is the Macaw heliport, the aircraft ran out of fuel.

Caldwell began an autorotation to bring the aircraft safely down but was forced to maneuver the aircraft to avoid swimmers who were in the waters in front of Grand Hotel.

This resulted in the main rotor blade coming in contact with the tail boom causing the aircraft to crash into the shallow waters in front of Grand Hotel, killing Caldwell and one passenger and severely injuring Hanami.

The lawsuit said Caldwell had planned and executed the flight without the knowledge that two gallons of fuel in the aircraft’s tanks which would have kept the aircraft flying for an additional 10 minutes was unusable.

The plaintiffs claimed Enstrom was negligent when it failed to include in the flight manual instructions and or a warning that the fuel tanks held two gallons of unusable fuel.

They said it also failed to include instructions and a warning in its instruction manuals that the owner should attach a placard to the aircraft to alert pilot that it had two gallons of unusable fuel.

As a direct result, the aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed causing the death of Caldwell, serious bodily injury to Hanami and destruction of Macaw’s helicopter.

Caldwell, Hanami and Macaw asked the court for unspecified amount of damages against Enstrom and its insurer and other relief the court may deem proper. They demand a jury trial.

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