The helicopter instructor killed in a 2014 midair collision in Frederick loved aviation so much, he was buried in his Advanced Helicopter Services button up shirt, his wife said.
Family members of Christopher Parsons spoke in court Monday about how his death has affected them, as part of the wrongful-death case against Midwest Air Traffic Control Services.
The families of two people aboard the helicopter claim Midwest’s negligence led to the deaths of Parsons, 29, of Westminster, and William Jenkins, 47, of Morrison, Colorado. Breandan MacFawn, 35, of Cumberland, also died in the crash on Oct. 23, 2014, when a Cirrus plane collided with his helicopter, killing him, Parsons and Jenkins.
Parsons’ wife, Ashlee Parsons, said her husband had a passion for flying and died doing what he loved.
He even planned to propose in the air, in a hot-air balloon, until he learned that it would be too small to kneel in, according to his father.
Since Parsons’ death, his wife has had trouble sleeping and bouts of depression. She was somewhat comforted, she said, by the fact that they had talked about what she would do without him, and he had told her she was strong and would continue on.
“I go on every day knowing he told me I could do it and to be strong,” she said, adding later, “Every day without him is hard.”
Parsons’ father, Keith Parsons, described his son as a determined man.
“Chris was somebody you could count on,” Keith Parsons said, noting that his son helped his mother with projects around the house when he returned from serving with the Marines in Iraq.
As a Marine, he worked on helicopters and came under fire at least once as he did, according to Keith Parsons.
He told the jury that he was outside when his wife, Nancy Parsons, got the call that their son had died. He frequently remembers her reaction and the screams that he heard when he listened to audio recordings from the collision.
“Every day, maybe not every day, but it seems like it, I hear Nancy’s screams and then I hear Chris’ screams,” he said.
Calculating lost income
Experts provided testimony about the earning potential of Jenkins and Parsons. If the jury determines that Midwest is liable for damages, jurors will have to calculate how much the company owes.
Patricia Pacey conducted an analysis of Jenkins’ finances to determine the financial consequences his death caused to his family.
He earned about $107,000 annually as president of his family company, Allegany Coal and Land in Frostburg.
If he had worked until he was 72 years old, Pacey figured his financial value to his family to be around $4.5 million. That figure took into account the value of the unpaid work he did around his home.
She also calculated his earning in a second scenario in which he stayed at his family business for life and continued to receive dividends from the business. If that were the case, she estimated he would earn around $12.2 million.
Vocational expert Kathy Stone said Parsons was earning around $25 an hour part-time at the time of his death. However, she estimated he’d be able to find a position earning around $94,700 a year after he earned his pilot’s license.
“He was a young man who had a lot of potential,” Stone said.
The altitude of the helicopter at the time of the crash has been a significant part of the case. The air traffic controller at the time said in a taped deposition that she was under the impression the helicopters were not supposed to operate above 900 feet without tower permission, due to Advanced Helicopter Service’s rules.
The aircraft was above 1,000 feet when it crashed. Midwest has argued that the pilots bore the responsibility of avoiding each other and their actions could have prevented the crash.
Airport Manager Rick Johnson said Monday that he had no knowledge of any agreement before the crash that the helicopters stay at 900 feet or below without permission of the tower.
The airport’s noise-abatement procedure recommends helicopters fly at 1,100 feet, he said.
The trial is expected to continue through April 7.