Family Members Sue Over Idaho Helicopter Crash

August 30, 2012

Family members of two Idaho Fish and Game Department employees killed in a 2010 helicopter crash are suing the owners of the helicopter and a mechanic, alleging the helicopter had failed two inspections earlier that year and door handles were installed that were susceptible to being inadvertently opened during flight.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found a metal clipboard belonging to one of the biologists hit a tail rotor, causing the helicopter to crash in Kamiah on Aug. 31, 2010. The crash killed Fish and Game employees Larry Barrett, 47, and Danielle Schiff, 34, along with the pilot, Perry J. Krinitt, 43, of Belgrade, Mont.

The lawsuit filed by Barrett’s widow and Schiff’s mother names as defendants Leading Edge Aviation and Valley Helicopter Service, of Lewiston, along with aircraft mechanic Harry M. Craviotto, doing business as Aurora Services in Athol, the Lewiston Tribune reported Tuesday.

Phone messages left by The Associated Press at Leading Edge and on the cellphone of owner Jim Pope Jr. were not immediately returned Tuesday. A phone listing for Aurora Services could not be found.

The lawsuit alleges the helicopter failed inspections in April and June of 2010 and that the situation remained unresolved at the time of the flight.

The plaintiffs also allege that in February 2002, Craviotto replaced the original cabin door handles and latches with latches that could inadvertently be opened by being bumped or by a handle being caught on a passenger’s clothing or other object.

It also argues Leading Edge and Krinitt, who contracted with the company to fly the helicopter, were responsible for allowing the helicopter to fly, for failing to secure items and for not adequately instructing the two passengers about the hazards of unsecured items or the proper way to use the doors.

It is believed the clipboard and a case were in the cabin when the helicopter took off and they were not adequately secured to prevent them from falling out when the door opened, the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages.

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