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JournalStar.com - April 1, 2008

Three Families Will Get $18.4 Million for 2002 Helicopter Crash


OMAHA — Three families will receive $18.4 million to settle their lawsuits over a 2002 medical helicopter crash in Norfolk that killed three people aboard.

The multimillion dollar settlement is thought to be the largest ever in Nebraska.

The families’ three lawsuits were dismissed in Lancaster County District Court Tuesday because of the settlement.

Six companies that made and maintained the helicopter and its key components agreed to pay the families but did not admit any wrongdoing.

The helicopter’s French manufacturer, Eurocopter S.A., also promised to require more frequent inspections of the part that was believed to have caused the crash.

The LifeNet of the Heartland helicopter had just left a Norfolk hospital on June 21, 2002, when the pilot reported trouble. The helicopter crashed at the Norfolk airport.

Killed in the crash were Lori Schrempp, 41, an emergency room nurse from Yankton, S.D.; pilot Phil Herring, 43, of Lincoln, Neb.; and paramedic Patrick Scollard, 40, of Sioux City, Iowa.

The families’ attorney, Gary C. Robb of Kansas City, Mo., said his clients are delighted and relieved by the settlement.

“The families bear no ill will toward Eurocopter. Accidents happen,’’ Robb said. “They believe Eurocopter has addressed and will address their safety concerns.’’

Eurocopter’s main attorney, Bill Robinson, declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled in 2004 that a faulty tail rotor and an inexperienced pilot were the likely causes of the crash.

Other factors included the binding of a mechanism controlling the tail rotor, gusty winds and the pilot’s lack of experience with that type of helicopter, the agency said.

Robb said Eurocopter pledged to change the maintenance requirements for the tail rotor load compensator within 90 days. He said that mechanism, which helps control the tail rotor, will be inspected after every 100 hours of flight under the new requirements instead of after every 500 hours.

Robb said Eurocopter also plans to redesign the tail units of all helicopters similar to the Eurocopter AS350B2 involved in the Norfolk crash to remove tail rotor load compensators.

“Each of the families commends Eurocopter for taking these steps to improve helicopter safety,’’ Robb said.

Lincoln attorney Vince Powers, who assisted Robb with the case, said the settlement these families will receive is the largest wrongful-death settlement in Nebraska.

The six companies involved in the settlement were American Eurocopter, Eurocopter S.A, Duncan Aviation of Lincoln, CIT Leasing Corp., Societe D’ Applications Des Machines Motrices and Dunlop Limited.

Robb said Eurocopter agreed to pay a significant portion of the settlement, but he declined to provide a breakdown of how much each company will pay.

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