The next of kin of the pilots working for helicopter operator Copterline who lost their lives in August 2005 when a Sikorsky S-76 from the company's fleet crashed into the Gulf of Finland outside the Estonian capital of Tallinn are to seek massive damages from the helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky and from Copterline itself.
The pilots' families have filed a lawsuit in a New York court, seeking a minimum of EUR 46 million (USD 60 million) in damages.
The arguments for the claim line up more or less with those used by Copterline when it filed its own USD 60 million claim against Sikorsky in the same court at the end of last year.
According to both statements of claims, Sikorsky, its subsidiary Helicopter Support Inc., and subcontractor Textron have rendered themselves guilty of aggravated negligence.
The complaints are based on the perished pilots' next of kin and Copterline's joint understanding of the cause of the crash. The accident's commission of inquiry reached the same conclusion in its preliminary report.
The aircraft is claimed to have crashed because the plasma coating covering the pistons of the helicopter's front servo had come loose, choking up the servo. This resulted in the lost of steering. In a statement sent to Helsingin Sanomat, Sikorsky flatly denies this theory.
According to the statement of complaints by the relatives of the pilots, based on the general product liability legislation the three American defendants are categorically responsible for the main cause of the accident.
The indictment towards Copterline relates to the cause of death of the 14 victims. They drowned because the helicopter's emergency floats malfunctioned. According to the statement of complaints, Copterline is partly responsible for this.
The plaintiffs in the case are the widows and the children of the captain and the co-pilot of the ill-fated helicopter.
The American judge has moved the defendants' deadline for their reply until mid-February.