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Missouri Lawyers Weekly - May 13, 2013

Families settle over fatal helicopter crash

By Scott Lauck
Missouri Lawyers Weekly
May 13, 2013

NTSB blamed pilot error for accident that killed four

The families of two people killed in a medical helicopter crash in Clay County reached an $8 million settlement with the aircraft’s operator.

The August 26, 2011, crash near the town of Mosby killed pilot James Freudenberg, flight nurse Randy Bever and paramedic Chris Frakes, as well as the patient they were transporting, Terry Tacoronte.

According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the helicopter was transporting a patient from Bethany to Liberty when it ran out of fuel. The pilot realized after takeoff that he had far less fuel than he thought he did and unsuccessfully tried to reach the airport in Mosby to refuel.

The NTSB blamed the crash on pilot error, concluding that Freudenberg had been distracted by several text messages that he sent and received during the flight, and that he was fatigued after being on duty for more than 12 hours.

Relatives of Bever and Tacoronte filed separate wrongful death lawsuits against Englewood, Colo.-based Air Methods Corp., alleging that the company had inadequate policies and oversight procedures regarding minimum fuel reserves.

The parties reached a settlement late last year, which Judge Shane T. Alexander approved in early February. The agreement allocates a total of $5 million to Bever’s widow, Shanna Bever; his children, Justin R. Bever and Taylor Hurt; and his mother, Marilyn Weir. Tacoronte’s husband, Victor E. Tacoronte; and her children Heather Beard, Joshua Taylor and Carrie Homan, shared $3 million.

Attorneys for Air Methods did not return calls seeking comment.

An attorney for the families, Anita Porte Robb, credited Air Methods for taking responsibility for the crash. She said that, in the wake of the crash, the company had pledges to strengthen its policies about texting while flying.

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