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Injured helicopter passengers file suit

By Rosemarie Bernardo
Posted May 11, 2016

Six passengers who suffered injuries from a hard landing of a helicopter on Kauai’s north shore filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Circuit Court against the tour helicopter company.

The suit filed against Helicopter Consultants of Maui Inc., doing business as Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, alleges negligence.

The six passengers suffered various fractures in the landing at Kalalau Beach on Jan. 17. One of the passengers, Dr. Lindsey Hicks, 34, of Austin, Texas, suffered severe injuries and is now a paraplegic, according to Rick Fried, who is representing the passengers.

Hicks, a dermatologist and dermatopathologist, suffered a crushed vertebra and was airlifted to Craig Hospital in Denver from Hawaii, Fried said. She underwent surgeries involving a cage prosthetic device and rods being inserted into her spine to stabilize it.

Hicks was released from the hospital April 9.

According to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Airbus helicopter pilot reported engine failure while about a quarter-mile offshore at 1,300 feet.

The report said he "immediately entered an autorotation and turned towards the beach." The pilot approached the shoreline and made a right turn to the south before the hard landing on the beach, 2 miles west of Hanalei.

"We have some concerns over the competence of the autorotation because the helicopter’s badly damaged. These people were very, very badly injured," Fried said.

Hicks was aboard the helicopter with her boyfriend, brother and parents, all of Austin. A sixth passenger, seated next to the pilot, is from Chicago.

Hicks’ boyfriend, Dan Amato, 42, suffered injuries similar to those of Hicks. He has slowly recovered and is able to walk. Still, Fried said he’s going to have limited movement.

Gregg Lundberg, president of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, said company officials have yet to see the lawsuit and declined to comment because of the ongoing NTSB investigation.