3rd lawsuit filed over deadly '08 chopper crash

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Local,Emily Babay

The sole survivor of a 2008 medical helicopter crash in Prince George's County that killed four people is suing the government, alleging that air traffic controllers were unresponsive and didn't provide sufficient support to the flight crew.

The lawsuit, filed by Jordan Wells, who was a patient on the flight, says negligence on the part of Federal Aviation Administration controllers led to the crash that killed pilot Steven Bunker, flight paramedic Mickey Lippy, volunteer paramedic Tanya Mallard and fellow patient Ashley Younger.

FAA controllers "exhibited numerous operational and procedural deficiencies," including "unresponsiveness, inattention and poor radar vectoring," the lawsuit says.

The helicopter crashed on Sept. 27, 2008, about three miles from Andrews Air Force Base, after picking up Wells, 18, and Younger, 17, from a car crash near Waldorf.

The families of Lippy and Mallard have both filed wrongful-death claims against the government in connection with the helicopter crash.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the FAA said they were aware of the lawsuits, but declined to comment further.

The newest complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, alleges that FAA controllers provided inaccurate and outdated weather information, failed to properly monitor the helicopter and ignored the pilot's reports of low visibility and equipment malfunctions.

The controllers also didn't "properly notify and then dispatch adequate search and rescue resources" after the helicopter crashed, the lawsuit says.

Wells waited "helplessly in the mud" for rescuers for two hours, "shivering, surrounded by debris, soaked in fuel, thinking she was going to die alone in the woods," according to the complaint.

Lippy's family filed suit in March and Mallard's family sued in July. They are seeking to consolidate the suits into one case.

In responses filed to both cases, the government has maintained that Bunker, the pilot, is at fault for the crash.

"Many of the alleged acts or omissions by the controllers were discrete and supervened by the pilot's ... placing the aircraft in an extremely aggressive and improper descent," the government wrote in response to the Lippy suit.

A National Transportation Safety Board report last year concluded that the pilot's decision to duck under clouds in an attempt to regain visibility was the chief cause of the crash. But factors leading to that decision, the report said, included the pilot's limited experience, the failure of controllers to provide current weather information and an "increased workload" for the pilot because of "inadequate" air traffic control.

ebabay@washingtonexaminer.com

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Emily Babay

Digital News Editor
The Washington Examiner