Helicopter crash leads to wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a man killed during the filming of a new military reality show has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in California against the pilot of the helicopter, and the company that maintained it.

Darren Rydstrom died in an aviation accident in which a helicopter was being used to film a scene dropping a backpack to the ground. The NTSB investigated the accident and relied on the on-board video camera to help in sorting out exactly what happened at the time of the crash.

Any aviation accident involving either a helicopter or an airplane almost always involves questions about how the pilot operated the aircraft and also whether there were design defects or maintenance problems that contributed to the accident.

We have handled a number of aviation cases over the years, including the well-known disaster involving the crash of U.S. Air Flight 427 outside of Pittsburgh. We have also handled other accidents involving small airplanes and helicopters.

The NTSB is usually called out to investigate any of these accidents, and they immediately start to gather important information including the on-board flight data recorder (i.e. “black box”) if the aircraft had one. Additionally, they will gather the pilot’s personal log book and all of the maintenance records on the aircraft. Also, they will look through prior aviation accidents or incidents to see whether this particular plane/helicopter has a history of accidents or failed parts that may provide clues as to what caused the present accident. The NTSB will also take a close look at the weather conditions to see if they played a role in the accident.

The lawsuit does not say whether the NTSB determined exactly what caused this reality TV accident, but regardless, the family bringing the lawsuit no doubt hired their own investigators to prove who was at fault for the crash.

In our experience, aviation litigation often boils down to a “battle of the experts,” i.e., each side hires their own aviation investigators who offer different versions of why the accident occurred, and in the end, it is up to the jury to determine who was at fault.