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Helicopter Crash in Chicago Neighborhood Injures Four People

Four people were injured in a helicopter crash just off Interstate 57 in Chicago’s Fernwood neighborhood on Sunday, July 8.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the air ambulance helicopter crash landed on its belly at about 9:15 p.m. on the grassy median where the interstate splits. Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Walter Schroeder said that the pilot made a mayday call before the crash. The FAA reportedly sent investigators to determine the cause of the crash, which is still unclear.

The patient on board the helicopter is reportedly in critical condition, and the three crew members are in stable condition. All four were transported to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. Attorneys Recently Secured the Highest Reported Product Liability Settlement or Verdict Involving a Helicopter in Illinois History

Throughout our firm’s history, Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. has handled all types of accident cases, including cases dealing with helicopter crashes. In 2016, attorneys Todd A. Smith and Brian LaCien secured an $8.15 million settlement for the family of Michael Russell, a veteran pilot who was killed in a crash after one of his helicopter’s drive-shaft bearings failed.

The crash occurred just before 9 p.m. on January 23, 2003 about 11 to 12 miles south of Chicago O'Hare International Airport. That night, Russell, a pilot for the on-demand medical transport company Air Angels, made a refueling stop on the east side of O’Hare where he signaled to the radio tower that he was planning on taking off to perform a quick equipment check before returning to land at the heliplex pad on the west side of the airport.

The family of Michael Russell filed their product liability lawsuit against Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta and French tail rotor drive shaft bearing component part manufacturer SNFA in 2005. While Agusta did not contest personal jurisdiction, SNFA did by making the argument that all they had done was supply the necessary components. Using radar tracking information gathered by the primary and secondary radar devices that provide information on the trajectory of an aircraft every 4.6 seconds, Smith and LaCien, with the help of experts, were able to piece together the events that transpired during those few critical seconds in order to better understand what caused the crash.

“Shortly after lifting off from refueling the FAA radar data, obtained during our investigation, revealed a fairly typical course on a path headed south until the aircraft turned toward the southwest as was expected based on the announced intent to turn back toward the 2L runway [where the heliplex was located],” Smith said. “What was shown on the radar was an odd change in position during the last 3 data points or over the last 9.2 seconds of data prior to the helicopter going below radar coverage and ending in a fiery crash in a cornfield directly south of the airport.”

In order for a helicopter to maintain controlled flight, both the main rotor and tail rotor need to remain functional. While the crash completely wrecked the helicopter, both the radar data and the forensic metallurgist brought on to examine the wreckage determined that the crash was caused by a faulty tail rotor.

“Despite the tremendous damage to the aircraft, our reconstruction experts were able to identify numerous “signatures” that clearly pointed to the in-flight failure of the tail rotor”, Smith said. “For example, the tail rotor blades did not suffer sharp bending you would expect if the blades were spinning rapidly at impact, and the drive shaft itself was clearly fractured.”

Following 11 years of dismissals and appeals, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed jurisdiction in what is thought to be the Court’s first personal jurisdiction decision in almost 25 years, and the highest reported product liability settlement or verdict involving a helicopter in state history. The settlement was reached before the case ever made it to trial.

At Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P., we understand just how devastating an accident can be to both the victim and their family. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers have spent decades working with injured victims across Cook County, and since we first opened our doors, our firm has secured more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. If you suffered a serious injury in an accident and are in need to legal representation, give our firm at (312) 313-0202 to discuss your options over the phone today, or set up a free case evaluation with a member of our firm by filling out our online form.

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