Son of WVa helicopter crash victim files wrongful death suit

Nov 13, 2022, 10:50 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2022, 1:56 pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The son of a man who died in a June helicopter crash in West Virginia that killed six people has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the Vietnam-era aircraft and others, claiming negligence contributed to their deaths.

Brian Bledsoe’s father, 64-year-old Marvin Bledsoe, died when he was a passenger in the Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter during a reunion for helicopter enthusiasts at MARPAT Aviation in Logan County on June 22, according to the civil suit filed Friday in Logan County Circuit Court.

The suit alleges that the helicopter’s frame “had been subject to innumerable stressors and abuses for 60 years” and it was unsuited for providing joy rides and sightseeing tours. It claims a combination of pilot error and a lack of appropriate wire-strike protection and crash-resistant fuel systems caused or contributed to crash, as well as improperly marked power lines.

Bledsoe’s family is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages to the fullest extent of the law,” according to their attorney, Mark Troy. The amount of compensation will be for a jury to decide, but he said West Virginia’s wrongful death statute “recognizes the various impacts of losing a loved one, from funeral expenses and lost income to mental anguish and loss of companionship.”

A representative who answered the phone at MARPAT Aviation on Monday declined to comment.

The fatal flight was the last scheduled for the day during a multiday reunion for helicopter enthusiasts where visitors could sign up to ride or fly the historic Huey helicopter, described by organizers as one of the last of its kind still flying.

The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, “The Knights of the Sky,” in Vinh Long, Vietnam, throughout much of the 1960s, according to MARPAT. After the Huey returned to the U.S. in 1971, the website says, it was featured in movies like “Die Hard,” “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory.”

During the reunion, people who made a donation could fly the helicopter with a “safety pilot” seated in the left front seat, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report. People could take a ride on the helicopter for a suggested donation.

The crash was near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites, where a deadly clash erupted a century ago as thousands of coal miners marched to unionize in West Virginia. A private pilot, two pilot-rated passengers and three others were killed.

According to the lawsuit, the helicopter lost control and crashed when it struck unmarked power lines in Logan County about 15 minutes after takeoff. The suit says the lines located about 200 feet off the ground “constituted an inherently dangerous condition which posed a high degree of risk of serious injury or death to the occupants of aircraft.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, the lines should have been marked with warning devices to protect aircraft flying in the area from striking them, the suit alleges.

American Electric Power, the company that owns the power lines, is also named as a defendant in the suit. An American Electric Power spokesperson said the company was unable to comment because of the pending litigation.

When the aircraft crashed, it burst into flames, preventing attempts to rescue any potential survivors. The suit alleges that the helicopter’s owners should have ensured the aircraft should have been retrofitted with a crash-resistant fuel system to prevent fire and fire-related injuries.

The suit also claims that the Huey was not fitted with an appropriate wire-strike protection system to mitigate the risks of wire strikes and cut cables when helicopters unexpectedly encounter powerlines, telecommunication lines and other aerial cables.

NTSB investigators released its preliminary report on the crash in July but have not yet released any information about the cause of the accident. A final report could take a year or two to complete, they said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A person shows their scan card for their personal selection numbers for a ticket for a Power...

L.B. Gilbert

$1.2 billion Powerball drawing nears after 11 weeks without a winner

A $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot will again be up for grabs Wednesday night after an 11-week stretch without a big winner

7 hours ago

FILE - A man walks through wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2023. Federal authorities...

Associated Press

Cleanup from Maui fires complicated by island’s logistical challenges, cultural significance

Cleanup of areas destroyed in the Maui wildfires could end up being one of the most complex to date, federal officials said, given the island's significant cultural sites, its rich history including a royal residence and possibly remains of people who died in the disaster.

13 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023...


New York judge issues limited gag order after Trump makes disparaging post about court clerk

A New York judge imposed a limited gag order on defendant Donald Trump Tuesday after the former president disparaged a key court staffer during his civil business fraud trial.

1 day ago

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the introduction of the integration of Microsoft Bing sea...

Suman Naishadham, Associated Press

Microsoft CEO says unfair practices by Google led to its dominance as a search engine

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday that unfair tactics used by Google led to its dominance as a search engine, tactics that in turn have thwarted his company’s rival program, Bing.

2 days ago

This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Portland Field Office shows a ...

Associated Press

Man accused of kidnapping Seattle woman, kidnapping charges in separate case

A man accused of abducting a woman in Seattle, driving her hundreds of miles to his home in Oregon and locking her in a makeshift cinder block cell 

2 days ago

A person browses offerings in the Raven's Nest Treasure shop in Pike Place Market, Dec. 10, 2021, i...

Associated Press

Man who faked Native American heritage to sell his art in Seattle sentenced to probation

A Washington state man who falsely claimed Native American heritage to sell his artwork at downtown Seattle galleries was sentenced Wednesday to federal probation and community service.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Son of WVa helicopter crash victim files wrongful death suit