Over $1 Billion in verdicts and recoveries
Handling Catastrophic Cases
Nationwide Since 1984
Call Us Toll-Free 1-800-474-1339
KANSAS CITY 816-474-8080
US News & World Report - December 9, 2020

Family of Pilot Killed Fighting CA Wildfire Files Lawsuit

BY JOHN ROGERS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The family of a veteran helicopter pilot who died when his aircraft crashed as he was dropping water over a California wildfire filed suit Wednesday against the companies that designed and maintained the aircraft.

Michael Fournier of Rancho Cucamonga, California, died Aug. 19 as he was battling a blaze raging out of control in rugged, smoke-shrouded terrain near the small central California town of Coalinga, California.

He had completed several water drops and was about to make another when his aircraft suddenly crashed and burst into flames.

His wife and two daughters filed suit against the UH-1H helicopter’s manufacturer and the company that serviced it. Both were accused of negligence and wrongful death in the suit that seeks unspecified damages.

Moments before Fournier’s copter spun out of control he had radioed another pilot following him to say that his hydraulic system appeared to be failing, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The other pilot was trying to help him find a safe place to land, the NTSB report said, when he suddenly saw Fournier’s aircraft begin to spin out of control and plunge to the ground. As it went down, the pilot said he heard Fournier shout “mayday” several times.

“Once you lose your hydraulics your ability to control that aircraft is just gone,” said veteran aviation attorney Gary C. Robb, who is representing the family.

The lawsuit names Rotorcraft Support Inc. of Fillmore, California, which Robb said maintained the aircraft, and Arrow-Falcon Exporters of Porterville, California, which manufactures, designs and sells aircraft, including the one that crashed.

An executive with Rotorcraft did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press. A person who answered the phone at Arrow-Falcon’s office said she was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

It could be some time before the suit, filed in Ventura County Superior Court, is resolved. Robb said the NTSB’s final report isn’t due for another 18 to 24 months.

Fournier, 52, was battling one of several blazes that raged across California last summer.

This one, called the Hills Fire, swept across 2,121 acres (3.3 miles) and took nearly 150 firefighters more than a week to contain.

It took a team of sheriff’s deputies using four-wheel-drive vehicles and, finally, traveling on foot, to reach the crash site and retrieve Fournier’s body.

The two highest jury verdicts in the United States in helicoptor crash trials

The two largest pre-trial aviation settlements in U.S. History for a single injury in a helicopter crash

#

Robb & Robb Named as Cover "Super Lawyers" for 2007

The Bulldog & The Ballerina

LEARN MORE
#

The Golden Couple

How Two Former Defense Lawyers Became One of the Most Successful Plaintiffs’ Duos in the Country

LEARN MORE
#

Record $82M Recovery In Helicopter Crash Cases

Highest Amount Ever Collected in Death Suits

LEARN MORE
#

Litigator v. Helicopter

Attorney Gary Robb is by far the most successful helicopter-crash trial lawyer in the country.

LEARN MORE
#

Lawyer Becomes "Go-to-Guy" After Helicopter Crashes

The family of a Louisiana man killed in a helicopter crash.

LEARN MORE
justice-img

Fight for the Justice You Deserve

We pride ourselves on being available when you need us. If you need to speak with us at any time, please do not hesitate to call or email us for assistance.

    office-address-icon

    CONTACT US TODAY

    Call for a free consultation

    Phone: 816-474-8080

    Toll-Free: 1-800-474-1339

    office-address-icon

    OUR OFFICE

    One Kansas City Place
    Suite 3900
    1200 Main Street
    Kansas City, Missouri 64105