Relatives of a helicopter instructor and passenger killed in a 2014 midair collision at Frederick Municipal Airport are poised to take a wrongful death suit to court next year.
Christopher Parsons, of Westminster, was working as a flight instructor with Advanced Helicopter Concepts on Oct. 23, 2014, when a Cirrus plane collided with his helicopter, killing him and his passengers, Breandan MacFawn, of Cumberland, and William Jenkins, of Colorado.
Parsons’ widow, Ashlee Renae Parsons, and his parents, Nancy and Keith Parsons, are suing the contractors that operate the air traffic control tower, Midwest Air Traffic Control Service, and the pilot of the plane involved in the crash with the helicopter, Scott Vincent Graeves.
Jenkins’ widow, Noelle Jenkins, is also a plaintiff in the suit.
A two-week civil trial is scheduled to begin March 27.
The plaintiffs accused Midwest Air Traffic Control Service and Graeves of negligence resulting in wrongful death and requested a judgment of more than $75,000.
The suit contends that air traffic controllers, knowing of the plane’s approach, failed to alert Graeves to the helicopter’s position or let Parsons know about the plane’s descent.
The controller told Graeves there were three helicopters below him in the traffic pattern, according to the complaint. The pilot responded that he could see only two of them. Despite that, the controller cleared him to land and he began to descend.
The traffic control services and the pilot both denied acting negligently.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s final report on its investigation into the crash concluded that — based on a transmission sent from the air traffic control tower advising of traffic during the single-engine Cirrus SR22 airplane’s approach to the landing zone — each pilot “was or should have been aware of the other” and “should have had the situational awareness to understand the conflict potential.”
The report, known as the probable cause report, is not admissible as evidence. Federal law prevents the reports from being used in lawsuits in to keep the investigation process from being affected by concerns that it may be used in court.
Midwest Air Traffic Control Services filed a complaint on Nov. 24 against Advanced Helicopter Concepts, saying that the company was primarily responsible for the fatal crash. The helicopter flight school denied that charge.
Three weeks later, Graeves filed a cross-claim against Midwest Air Traffic Control Service and Advance Helicopter Concepts, alleging that the helicopter pilot and air traffic controllers were responsible for the crash.
Gregory S. Winton, an attorney for the relatives of MacFawn, said he filed a suit on behalf of the passenger’s survivors and that it had been resolved. He did not disclose the amount of the settlement.
Winton also filed a claim with the Federal Aviation Administration, he said. If the claim is denied, that could pave the way for a suit against the federal government.