Son of WVa helicopter crash victim files wrongful death suit

Nov 14, 2022, 2:44 PM | Updated: 3:47 pm
FILE - Emergency personnel look over the site of a helicopter that crashed in Blair, W.Va., on June...

FILE - Emergency personnel look over the site of a helicopter that crashed in Blair, W.Va., on June, 23, 2022. TThe son of a man who died in the helicopter crash in West Virginia that killed six people has filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday, Nov. 11, against the company that owned the Vietnam-era aircraft and others, claiming negligence contributed to their deaths. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, File)

(AP Photo/Chris Jackson, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The son of a man who died in a June helicopter crash in West Virginia that killed six people has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the Vietnam-era aircraft and others, claiming negligence contributed to their deaths.

Brian Bledsoe’s father, 64-year-old Marvin Bledsoe, died when he was a passenger in the Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter during a reunion for helicopter enthusiasts at MARPAT Aviation in Logan County on June 22, according to the civil suit filed Friday in Logan County Circuit Court.

The suit alleges that the helicopter’s frame “had been subject to innumerable stressors and abuses for 60 years” and it was unsuited for providing joy rides and sightseeing tours. It claims a combination of pilot error and a lack of appropriate wire-strike protection and crash-resistant fuel systems caused or contributed to crash, as well as improperly marked power lines.

Bledsoe’s family is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages to the fullest extent of the law,” according to their attorney, Mark Troy. The amount of compensation will be for a jury to decide, but he said West Virginia’s wrongful death statute “recognizes the various impacts of losing a loved one, from funeral expenses and lost income to mental anguish and loss of companionship.”

A representative who answered the phone at MARPAT Aviation on Monday declined to comment.

The fatal flight was the last scheduled for the day during a multiday reunion for helicopter enthusiasts where visitors could sign up to ride or fly the historic Huey helicopter, described by organizers as one of the last of its kind still flying.

The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, “The Knights of the Sky,” in Vinh Long, Vietnam, throughout much of the 1960s, according to MARPAT. After the Huey returned to the U.S. in 1971, the website says, it was featured in movies like “Die Hard,” “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory.”

During the reunion, people who made a donation could fly the helicopter with a “safety pilot” seated in the left front seat, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report. People could take a ride on the helicopter for a suggested donation.

The crash was near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites, where a deadly clash erupted a century ago as thousands of coal miners marched to unionize in West Virginia. A private pilot, two pilot-rated passengers and three others were killed.

According to the lawsuit, the helicopter lost control and crashed when it struck unmarked power lines in Logan County about 15 minutes after takeoff. The suit says the lines located about 200 feet off the ground “constituted an inherently dangerous condition which posed a high degree of risk of serious injury or death to the occupants of aircraft.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, the lines should have been marked with warning devices to protect aircraft flying in the area from striking them, the suit alleges.

American Electric Power, the company that owns the power lines, is also named as a defendant in the suit. An American Electric Power spokesperson said the company was unable to comment because of the pending litigation.

When the aircraft crashed, it burst into flames, preventing attempts to rescue any potential survivors. The suit alleges that the helicopter’s owners should have ensured the aircraft should have been retrofitted with a crash-resistant fuel system to prevent fire and fire-related injuries.

The suit also claims that the Huey was not fitted with an appropriate wire-strike protection system to mitigate the risks of wire strikes and cut cables when helicopters unexpectedly encounter powerlines, telecommunication lines and other aerial cables.

NTSB investigators released its preliminary report on the crash in July but have not yet released any information about the cause of the accident. A final report could take a year or two to complete, they said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hil...
Associated Press

What to watch in Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff election

ATLANTA (AP) — The extended Senate campaign in Georgia gives Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker a second chance to persuade voters to send them to Washington. But without party control of Congress at stake and absent other candidates on the ticket, the runoff looks different from the November general election. The […]
23 hours ago
This combination of photos shows Herschel Walker, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate for Georgia,...
Associated Press

Warnock, Walker: Starkly different choices for Black voters

ATLANTA (AP) — Raphael Warnock is the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, having broken the color barrier for one of the original 13 states with a special election victory in January 2021, almost 245 years after the nation’s founding. Now he hopes to add another distinction by winning a full six-year term in a […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of Li...
Associated Press

Supreme Court taking up clash of religion and gay rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is hearing the case Monday of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court. The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists […]
23 hours ago
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and her husband Paul Pelosi attend the 45th Kennedy Center Ho...
Associated Press

Knight, Clooney, Grant feted at Kennedy Center Honors

WASHINGTON (AP) — A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks.” Ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Matt Damon playfully teased his friend George Clooney — a lot — while Sheryl Crow delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” to Amy Grant […]
23 hours ago
Gas prices are advertised at over eight dollars a gallon at a gas station Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, i...
Associated Press

California lawmakers to meet, eye big oil’s high gas prices

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Furious about oil companies’ supersized profits after a summer of record-high gas prices, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will formally start his campaign to punish big producers by asking the Legislature to fine them and give the money back to drivers. State lawmakers will briefly return to the state Capitol […]
23 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Tarrant County, Texas, Jail shows Aaron Dean. The former ...
Associated Press

Trial to start for Texas cop who shot Black woman in home

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A white former police officer is set to go on trial Monday for fatally shooting a Black woman through a rear window of her Texas home while responding to a call about an open front door in a case that has faced years of delays. Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Son of WVa helicopter crash victim files wrongful death suit