Los Angeles, California, July 21, 2023 - - Amber Sax, widow of Capt. John J. Sax, and her attorney, Timothy Loranger (Marine Corps veteran) of Wisner Baum, attended a military briefing at Marine Corps Base Quantico on July 21. U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) leaders and a team of experts shared the results of their year-long investigation to the families of the five service members who died in an Osprey V-22 crash on June 8, 2022 near Coachella Road and Highway 78 outside of Glamis, California during a training operation.
The Marine Corps determined the crash was caused by a “dual hard clutch engagement (HCE) which created a Single Engine and Interconnect Drive System (Single Engine/ICDS) failure; the failure resulted in a catastrophic loss of thrust on the right-hand (RH) proprotor.”
The report found that the crash was not caused by human error on the part of the crew or maintenance, clearing them of any wrongdoing. A statement from the Marine Corps explained there was “nothing they could have done to anticipate or prevent this mishap.”
According to the accident investigation board (AIB) report, the USMC has been aware of this critical safety issue in the aircraft’s gearbox since 2010. The report cites at least three previous crashes implicating the flaw in the gearbox where the failure caused the tiltrotor’s clutch to slip. The Marine Corps opted to keep the Osprey V-22 fleet flying this past year despite this known critical safety issue, confident that it’s workaround fix of making pilots aware of the issue, as well as “numerous actions associated with defining, mitigating or eliminating HCE’s.”
The military nor Boeing have yet to determine the cause of the gearbox failure, though they did implement a directive issued on Feb. 3, 2023, to replace all input quill assemblies over a predetermined flight hour threshold at the recommendation of the V-22 Joint Program Office. They state this replacement significantly reduces the likelihood of an HCE occurring by 99 percent.
The crew that perished in this crash was from the “Purple Foxes” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 (VMM-364) Camp Pendleton---Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, Capt. John J. Sax, Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland.
Amber Sax was pregnant with her second child at the time her husband died. She is raising their two young children, with the help of her family. She is devastated by the loss of her husband and attended the military briefing to learn the true cause behind the crash, praying that such a tragic event will never repeat itself. “John treasured his role as a Marine, deriving immense joy from being an Osprey pilot. Demonstrating unwavering dedication, he fulfilled his roles as a devoted father and husband with exceptional commitment. Within the military aviation community, Osprey community, and Marine Corps community, we found a second family, and my quest for more information is solely fueled by the earnest desire to safeguard that family.”
Amber’s attorney, Timothy Loranger, a military aviation accident attorney and USMC veteran still has questions after the briefing. “The military’s report is very detailed and thorough, but it raises many questions about the cause of the hard clutch engagement’s failure, They admitted the cause is unknown. If they do not know the root cause how can they address the issue with any confidence?
“The report states that this crash was the result of ‘catastrophic, unpreventable and unanticipated mechanical failure.’ However, the report also states that ‘[s]ince 2010, there have been numerous actions associated with defining, mitigating or eliminating’ the mechanical problem at the center of this most recent fatal crash.
“What steps did Bell-Boeing or the other contractors take to discover and resolve the root cause of the HCE in the years leading up to the crash? How was the mechanical failure ‘unanticipated’ if efforts to mitigate the issue had been ongoing since 2010? Considering the Osprey has been involved in over a dozen accidents, resulting in the deaths of 51 people, it is critical that we get answers to these concerns.
“While we appreciate the new information offered in the investigative report, respectfully, there are still unanswered questions that remain.”
Mr. Loranger and his aviation accident team, including a team of the world’s finest experts, are combing over the military’s report and will take it into account as they prepare the product liability lawsuit on behalf of the Sax family.
About Wisner Baum
Wisner Baum (formerly Baum Hedlund) has an extensive track-record litigating aviation accidents for more than 800 passengers, crew, and ground victims arising from catastrophic incidents involving major airlines, commercial air tour companies, corporate jet operators, general aviation (both fixed wing and rotary wing), military aviation, and the complex legal issues that often arise including GARA defense disputes, application of international aviation laws and treaties, forum non conveniens, and choice of law issues.
Timothy Loranger has litigated numerous aviation accidents (both fixed wing and rotary wing) involving commercial transportation, military aircraft, and general aviation, stemming from negligent design, operation, or maintenance. His military and pilot experience, combined with a varied background in science and mechanics, gives Tim significant insights into finding and proving the causation in aviation accidents and a solid understanding of the piloting and mechanical issues involved that are inherent in litigating complex aviation cases.
A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Tim served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He worked as an aircraft mechanic throughout the U.S., including the Marine Corps and Navy Air Stations in El Toro, California; San Diego, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida. The focus of his training and work was on RF-4B, F/A-18, and KC-130 aircraft at both the squadron and intermediate maintenance levels.
Loranger is listed in The Best Lawyers in America® (selected as the 2020 “Lawyer of the Year” for Personal Injury Litigation in Los Angeles) and Super Lawyers™ in the areas of aviation and aerospace. He is a proud member of such organizations as AAJ, ABA, LPBA, and AOPA.