Ill. State-Owned Copter Involved in Crash was Uninsured

August 8, 2005

A state-owned helicopter that crashed near Chicago last week, injuring its pilot and three passengers, was not insured, so taxpayers are out hundreds of thousands of dollars because officials had planned to sell the craft before the accident.

The Illinois Department of Transportation doesn’t carry hull insurance to repair or replace aircraft because it is expensive and the chances of a crash like the one July 26 are rare, Transportation spokesman Matt Vanover said. He said that has been IDOT’s longtime policy.

Officials said they had decided before the crash to sell the 19-year-old helicopter because it was no longer needed, a sale that could have recouped a good portion of the craft’s original $872,000 purchase price. Another helicopter IDOT bought in 1977 for $272,000 recently sold for $250,000, agency records indicate.

The crashed helicopter did carry $25 million in liability insurance for injury and property damage, as do IDOT’s three other helicopters and 13 airplanes, according to state records.

Three Illinois State Toll Highway Authority employees surveying construction zones were aboard the craft when it went down in a grassy area along Interstate 294 about 15 miles south of Chicago.

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