Couple Files Lawsuit After Helicopter Crash

2 Helicopter Crashes Occurred Within 4 Days

POSTED: 6:27 pm HST December 28, 2007
UPDATED: 8:24 pm HST December 28, 2007

HONOLULU -- Earlier this year, Kauai saw two fatal helicopter crashes within a span of four days.

A New Hampshire couple who survived the March 11 crash filed a lawsuit this week over what they claim was a "defective" part.

KITV's Catherine Cruz reported that Honolulu attorney Rick Fried represents families involved in both of the crashes. He has settled one lawsuit, and this week he said he filed the second case.

During the first crash, the helicopter went down in Haena while it was on a scenic tour of Kauai's North Shore.

The impact killed a California man and injured Judy and Doug Barton. Judy Barton, a bank vice president, was paralyzed.

Federal investigators said they believe the crash was caused by a problem with the tail rotor.

Fried, who is representing Barton, said he believes it was a defective root fitting.

"The aluminum part, with some other things in it, was machined incorrectly. There are very strict tolerances, and they were not followed," Fried said

The product liability suit names Boeing, a California company called Aluminum Precision and Interisland Helicopters, as well as the pilot Donald Torres as responsible for the crash.

Fried said he believes emergency inspection orders following the crash may have saved other lives.

"Every helicopter of this type, a Hughes 369, owned now by Boeing, was set down until that part was inspected, and they found four others with this same problem," Fried said.

Fried said he represents a second couple involved in another crash that occurred a few days before the crash that injured the Bartons.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited a problem with the helicopter's hydraulics.

The crash that occurred first killed four people, including the pilot, Joe Sulak.

Fried said the lawsuit in that case, involving his clients, Terry and James MaCarty, went to mediation.

"Almost every bone in his body was broken. She passed away in the crash. His medical bills are in the high $600s," Fried said.

That lawsuit has been settled, and as with most of these types of cases, the actual amount of the settlement deal is kept secret.