Husband of Boynton Beach woman who died in Georgia helicopter crash sues manufacturer — (Palm Beach Post)

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Palm Beach Post

Monday, July 30, 2012

 By Jane Musgrave,  Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH — The husband of a 37-year-old Boynton Beach woman who was killed in a 2010 helicopter crash in Georgia has sued the helicopter maker, and the companies that serviced and sold the aircraft.

In the lawsuit filed last week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Sasha Zapototsky claims the companies— Robinson Helicopter Co., South Florida Helicopters and The Gates Corp. — are responsible for the death of his wife, Shelley.

The registered nurse died when the helicopter owned and piloted by her boss, Adam Reeves, crashed near Blood Mountain en route from the North County Airport, near Palm Beach Gardens. The 45-year-old Jupiter businessman also died.

The National Transportation Safety Board last year blamed the crash on bad weather and Reeves’ inexperience.

In his lawsuit, Zapototsky says the crash occurred when the helicopter’s rotors lost power. Such problems have contributed to other crashes, the suit claims. None of the companies were immediately available for comment.

To view National Transportation Safety Board Accident presentation click here

NTSB Identification: ERA10FA403
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, August 02, 2010 in Blairsville, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/06/2012
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N34JS
Injuries: 2 Fatal

On August 2, 2010, about 1900 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N34JS, was substantially damaged when it collided with mountainous terrain while maneuvering near Blood Mountain, Blairsville, Georgia. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed around the accident site, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which departed Madison Municipal Airport (52A), Madison, Georgia, about 1830, and was destined for the Brasstown Valley Resort, Young Harris, Georgia. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The flight originated from West Palm Beach, Florida, early on the morning of the accident date. According to fuel receipts, fuel was purchased for the accident helicopter at 1809, at 52A. In a telephone interview, the airport manager said that the pilot purchased fuel, advised the resort by telephone of his pending arrival, boarded the helicopter and departed. When the helicopter did not arrive as expected, a search was initiated, and an Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued on August 4, 2010. The wreckage was located from the air by the Civil Air Patrol on August 6, 2010.

In a telephone interview, a friend of the pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to attend a motorcycle racing event in Georgia. The friend owned the Robinson Helicopter sales and service center where the pilot/owner of the accident helicopter purchased and maintained his helicopter. He said the pilot had asked him to go along on the trip, but he couldn’t due to a prior commitment. According to the friend, “He asked me to go and I told him, ‘You really need mountain experience before you go.’ I gave him a few pointers, but there was no talking him out of it. He called me Monday morning (August 2, 2010) or Sunday and asked me a few more questions about flying through the mountains. He didn’t give me the route of flight. I just knew he was going to the motocross nationals.”

In a telephone interview, a witness who lived about 8 miles south of the accident site stated that she heard a small helicopter approach her house and went outside to watch, as she “loved” airplanes and helicopters. She said she was unable to see the helicopter as it passed, because her view was blocked by trees. She said the helicopter passed by between 1800 and 1900, and that the sound of the helicopter was smooth and continuous.

The FAA’s Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of the pilot. Tissue specimens from the pilot tested positive for bupropion, diphenydramine, and phentermine.

Bupropion is an antidepressant medication used to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. At least one brand of bupropion (Zyban) is used to help people stop smoking by reducing cravings and other withdrawal effects.

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that blocks the effects of the naturally occurring chemical histamine in the body. Diphenhydramine is used to treat sneezing; runny nose; itching, watery eyes; hives; rashes; itching; and other symptoms of allergies and the common cold.

Phentermine is a stimulant that is similar to an amphetamine. Phentermine is an appetite suppressant that affects the central nervous system.

According to the FAA, Bupropion and Phentermine were not appropriate for use while flying.