Jan 24 2013 by Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser
THE family of a Mawdesley man killed in a helicopter crash with his instructor have launched an £800,000 battle for justice.
Dad-of-one Philip Gray, 46, died when the two-seater Schweizer helicopter which he was having a flying lesson in crashed near Blackpool in September, 2009.
The pilot, Steven Lewis, 38, from Rainhill, also died in the crash.
Representatives of both men have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the US against the aircraft maker and 10 other defendants. They are seeking a total of at least $1.25m – £770,000 – for loss of earnings and mental anguish, claiming negligence and product liability. They allege that faulty engine parts – a fuel injector and part of the ignition system – directly led to Mr Lewis losing power over the Lancashire coastline. The last transmission from Mr Lewis, 20 minutes after take-off, was the word: “Failure.”
Last week the families overcame the first hurdle in the case after a judge ruled that the case should be heard in the USA. New York-based Schweizer Aircraft and 10 other defendants, including engine and parts makers, attempted to have the lawsuit kicked out, claiming it should be heard in the UK. A Federal judge ruled the action should proceed in the USA where the helicopter wreckage is held.
An inquest into the deaths in 2011 concluded with the jury delivering a narrative verdict that “they could not clearly state what the sequence of events were that caused the loss of usable engine power”. The jury was told the flight had been normal up to the point of the Mayday call when the engine was not producing useful power.
Jim Morris from Irwin Mitchell solicitors, representing the families, said: “What we are focusing on is what went wrong with this helicopter. Hopefully, as a result of this process, investigation and expert reports, we will identify what actually happened and from that see what lessons can be learned for future Schweizer operations.”