On February 22, 2022, a military-contracted Sikorsky S-61N helicopter crashed at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The helicopter crash killed chief pilot Daniel Maurice, 64; command pilot Patrick Rader, 55; mechanic Erika Tevez-Valdez, 42; and mechanic Matthew Haider, 44. Maurice was a Lyle, Washington resident. The other deceased victims lived on Kauai.
Authorities say the incident happened shortly after 10:00 a.m. local time. The Sikorsky helicopter was supporting a training operation when a witness said it “just went down” while attempting to drop an object that it had picked up from the water. Chris Turner, who owns a boating business, said he was returning a Zodiac to Kikiaola Harbor when he noticed the Sikorsky fly above him as it headed toward a landing strip. Turner said the helicopter was lowering items at 1,000 feet above the north side of the landing strip when it moved “erratically” to the right, then plummeted nose-first to the ground.
According to Turner, the helicopter appeared to be operating normally just seconds before entering a nosedive and crashing. The weather at the time was clear, and Turner did not hear any mechanical issues before the crash. “Something must’ve malfunctioned…” Turner said.
Cause of Helicopter Crash in Kauai
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the cause of the Kauai helicopter crash at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF). Helicopter crash investigations typically take at least a year to complete. Once NTSB concludes its investigation, the agency will issue a final report that includes the probable cause (or causes) and applicable safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.
NTSB officials will be looking into a variety of factors as they investigate potential causes. Investigators will analyze the wreckage, both physically and forensically, looking for signs of mechanical failure. The chopper was carrying a sling load at the time it went out of control. Investigators will also try to determine if the load at the end of the cable somehow began to swing excessively, causing a loss of control; in this regard, the actions of the pilot in the moments before the crash will be scrutinized. Helicopter crash attorney Timothy A. Loranger believes it is possible that something may have gone wrong with the load or the system used to release the cable. “Something catastrophic may have happened too quickly for the pilots to recover the helicopter,” Loranger says. “One thing is certain: these grieving families need and deserve to know what happened.”
Investigators will also look at and review the helicopter’s maintenance records for any anomalies.
The Sikorsky S-61N helicopter was operated by Croman Corporation, which is located in White City, Oregon. Croman, which “provides range support services” to the PMRF, is one of the world’s most experienced Sikorsky S-61 helicopter operators, according to the company website.
Victims of accidents involving military contractors may be able to pursue damages against the contractor or, if a defective part malfunctioned and was a cause of the crash, against the manufacturer of it. If you are interested in learning more about your legal rights following a helicopter crash, please give us a call at (855) 948-5098.
Aviation Accident Lawyers with Experience Litigating Cases Involving Sikorsky Helicopters
Helicopter crash lawyers from the national law firm of Wisner Baum have decades of experience litigating cases stemming from Sikorsky helicopter accidents and incidents. Our track record of success in Sikorsky helicopter crash cases includes:
- Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopter crash in Maryland (2017)
- Sikorsky S-61N helicopter accident in California (2008)
- Sikorsky HH-3F helicopter accident in Nevada (2000)
- Sikorsky S-58T helicopter accident in California (1994)
If a member of your family was harmed in a helicopter crash, you should consider speaking with a lawyer as soon as you are able to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Our firm has won more than half a billion dollars for aviation accident clients. Across all areas of practice, we have won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements.
Contact our office by calling (855) 948-5098 or submitting an online contact form today to schedule your free consultation.