Families of passengers on downed N.L. chopper ’voluntarily discontinue’ lawsuit

The families of passengers who died in the crash of a Sikorsky helicopter off Newfoundland and the sole survivor of the tragedy have “voluntarily discontinued” their lawsuit against the U.S. company in hopes of reaching a settlement.

A Cougar Sikorsky S-92 helicopter takes off from St. John's International Airport on Thursday March 12

HALIFAX — The families of passengers who died in the crash of a Sikorsky helicopter off Newfoundland and the sole survivor of the tragedy have “voluntarily discontinued” their lawsuit against the U.S. company in hopes of reaching a settlement.

Fifteen passengers and the survivor launched a lawsuit in June in the Philadelphia court of common pleas, alleging that Sikorsky, Keystone Helicopters and their parent company, United Technologies Corp., made false claims about the aircraft’s safety.

Since then, one passenger’s family was added to the suit, bringing the total to 16 families involved in the action.

The plaintiffs alleged the U.S. firms hadn’t correctly indicated how long pilots could safely fly if oil leaked out of the helicopter’s gearbox.

But in court documents filed on July 14, the plaintiffs say they have “voluntarily discontinued” the lawsuit, “to engage in alternative dispute resolution before further litigation.”

The Cougar Helicopters flight was carrying 16 passengers and two crew members when it crashed in the North Atlantic on March 12 as it was ferrying workers to two offshore oil platforms.

In mid-June, the federal Transportation Safety Board released an update into its probe in the crash and found that while the main rotor blades continued to rotate when the chopper crashed, the tail rotor drive gears were severely damaged.

Investigators said the pilots of the Sikorsky S-92A lost control in the flight’s final moments because of the tail rotor failure.

The issue of the aircraft’s ability to operate without lubricating oil for the gearbox was a key allegation in the 113-page statement of complaint.

The plaintiffs argued the pilots believed the aircraft met U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regulations that certified the aircraft could operate for 30 minutes after losing oil.

They alleged the pilots kept flying the aircraft towards land on that basis, rather than rapidly landing it on the water.

But the defendants decided to “deceptively argue” that the 30-minute so-called run dry requirement was “so extremely remote” that the S-92 could be exempted from that FAA provision, the plaintiffs alleged.

Allegations made in the complaint have not been proven in court and the defendants have yet to file a response.

A spokesman for Sikorsky declined comment Tuesday.

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