THE family of an experienced Rainhill pilot who was killed in a helicopter crash have launched a £770,000 battle for justice.
Flying instructor Steven Lewis, 38, and his pupil Philip Gray, 46, were both killed when the two-seater Schweizer 269C-1 helicopter they were flying crashed near Blackpool in September 2009.
The US-manufactured chopper was spotted performing manoeuvres before a one word mayday distress call was sent just 20 minutes after take-off, saying “failure”.
Investigators for the Air Accidents Investigations Branch were unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the crash and an inquest ruled that it “could not clearly state what the sequence of events were that caused the loss of usable engine power”.
But representatives of both victims have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the US against the aircraft maker and a engine and parts makers.
They allege faulty engine parts, a fuel injector and part of the ignition system directly led to the loss of power and are seeking $1.25m, or £770,000, claiming negligence and product liability.
Lawyer Jim Morris, acting on behalf of Mr Lewis’ family, said: “We filed the case in September 2011. Following lengthy legal arguments, a judge in the federal court in Philadelphia ruled that the case should be heard in America, which is what we had battled for. All the expertise is out there to litigate the matter.
“Ultimately, the aim is to establish to the best of our ability what caused the accident. The wreckage is over in the US already and we hope to identify what went wrong. Mr Lewis’ family want answers, want to help improve flight safety in the future and want to hold the people to account.”
Mr Morris added that it could take several years before it is heard by a jury.
He added: “It will be a lengthy process. We will have to obtain witness statements and there will have to be an expert analysis of the wreckage.
“It will ultimately be up to a jury to decide whether we have proved the case and, if so, the level of damages. It’s a high-value claim.”