November 23, 2022 - Another relative of one of the victims of a helicopter crash in Logan County, West Virginia, has filed a lawsuit, claiming unmarked power lines and an unsafe and improperly permitted helicopter were contributing factors to his father’s death in June.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed in Logan Circuit Court on Wednesday is the second lawsuit to be filed in relation to the Freedom Festival helicopter crash in Logan that killed all six people on board.
Jason Collins is suing American Electric Power Co. Inc., United Affiliates Corp., MARPAT Aviation LLC, Gordon Prescott and the City of Logan for what Collins said are their roles in the death of his father, Jack Collins.
First responders survey the scene of a fatal helicopter crash in Logan County, W.Va., on June 22.
Photo: Dylan Vidovich, Logan Banner
“Jack Collins was a great guy who dearly loved his family,” said Rob Berthold Sr., one of the attorneys representing Jason Collins. “It’s tragic that after retiring after all those years in the mining industry that he and five others had to die in this avoidable accident.”
In addition to Berthold’s firm, Berthold Law Firm in Charleston, Ben Salango, with Salango Law, is representing Jason Collins. Logan Circuit Judge Jason Butcher is presiding over the case.
The crash occurred about 15 minutes into the 60-year-old Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter’s last flight of the day. The helicopter struck a rock face about 3.5 nautical miles east of the Logan County Airport and came to rest on the road below, according to a preliminary report filed by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“The main wreckage was 542 (feet) past a utility cable that crossed about 180 (feet) above the road,” the report states. “Two utility cables were fractured consistent with tensile overload and were displaced toward the main wreckage near the roadside at 220 (feet) and 397 (feet) from the remaining utility cable.”
Collins and five other people were killed in the helicopter crash June 22, when the helicopter was caught in unmarked power lines, crashed and became “consumed and engulfed by fire,” according to the lawsuit.
The image of a helicopter was prominent in the marketing for the Freedom Festival, which included a MARPAT “Huey Reunion,” referencing the Huey helicopter model, according to the lawsuit.
Collins alleges AEP failed to adequately mark the power and utility lines that the helicopter became caught in before it crashed and caught fire.
The attorneys said AEP failed to properly mark power lines near the Logan County Airport using high visibility spheres, which are common ways to mark utility lines.
United Affiliates Corp., which owned the property where the lines were and received power from them, likewise was responsible for marking the lines, according to the lawsuit.
“Said power lines constituted a latent, dangerous condition, which posed a high degree of risk of death to occupants of the Huey helicopter, which were anticipated, or reasonably should have been anticipated to operate in such area by AEP, as the crash location was located within 3.5 miles of the Logan County Airport,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
Prescott was the owner of the helicopter, which was more than 60 years old at the time of the crash, according to the lawsuit.
Notably, the helicopter was certified as an “experimental” aircraft, meaning it was not suitable under the law to be operated for compensation or hire.
The lawsuit alleges Prescott failed to perform his duties to ensure pilots and co-pilots who operated the helicopter were properly trained and that the helicopter was operated in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Likewise, the lawsuit alleges the City of Logan heavily promoted the Huey Reunion and helicopter rides as part of the Freedom Festival while failing to make sure the helicopter had been properly maintained and operated in a “safe, flightworthy manner” and should have ensured the helicopter had appropriate devices to protect riders from known dangers.
In the lawsuit filed in Logan County last week, Brian Bledsoe, the son of 64-year-old Marvin Bledsoe, who died in the crash, alleged the helicopter wasn’t suited to provide joyrides and that pilot error and a lack of appropriate wire-strike protection and crash-resistant fuel systems caused or contributed to the crash, as well as improperly marked power lines, according to an Associated Press report.