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Settlement Reached In Faulty Tour Helicopter Crash

June 24, 2008

HONOLULU, Hi. - A couple involved in a tour helicopter crash on Kaua'i in 2007 is getting a big financial settlement. A helicopter manufacturer and a parts maker will have to pay the New Hampshire couple $9.5 million for their injuries.

Their attorney, Rick Fried, receives one third of the $9.5 million as his fee. But the couple will receive the rest, about $6.4 million for a chopper crash that left the wife paralyzed and the husband with chronic back pain. Judy and Douglas Barton of Newport, New Hampshire were on an hour-long air helicopter tour when the chopper crashed on Kauai's North Shore on March 11, 2007.

The impact killed one passenger and the Bartons each suffered fractured spines. The chopper lost its tail rotor before crashing near Haena Beach Park.

"This was a metal fatigue problem, which had existed in prior helicopters of the same type," Attorney Rick Fried said.

So helicopter manufacturer Boeing and parts maker Aluminum Precision Products are paying the $9.5 million settlement.

The crash left 52-year-old Judy Barton, a bank vice president, in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down without either bladder or bowel functions.

"She's got an unbelievable attitude and is carrying on, and is trying to even work several hours, a couple times a week at the bank," Fried said.

The couple will use the money to pay $750,000 in medical expenses, hire in-home health and housekeeping staff and move out of their mobile home.

"As a result of this settlement, they are now in the process of building a much more wheelchair-friendly house on their own property," Fried said.

Fried said Douglas Barton, 61, is still able to walk, but suffers from frequent back pain and is unable to keep working as a machinist.

Because of this crash, 500 of the same chopper models were temporarily grounded worldwide, and similar manufacturing defects in tail rotors were found on two helicopters in New Zealand. Rick Fried said 16 of the same model helicopters crashed within a ten-year period and 10 of those crashes were blamed on metal fatigue.

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