The family of firefighter Scott Charlson, including his mother Nina, brother Jake and father Rick Charlson of Eugene, gather memorabilia in preparation for a service for their son days after learning that Scott, 25, had died in a helicopter crash. - AP file photo

Wrongful death suit filed in firefighting helicopter crash

A San Diego attorney has filed a wrongful death case against Carson Helicopters and the makers of the firefighting helicopter that crashed in the Trinity Alps of Northern California Aug. 5, killing nine people and injuring four.

The suit was filed Wednesday on behalf of the estate and parents of Phoenix firefighter Scott Charlson, 25, who was killed in the crash. It was filed in Shasta County Superior Court by attorney Todd Macaluso of Macaluso & Associates.

Macaluso and his firm recently won a $55.6 million wrongful death judgment for the families of four Marines killed in 2004 when their helicopter hit a utility tower at Camp Pendleton. San Diego Gas & Electric Co., was found negligent for not installing safety lights on the tower, but plans to appeal the decision.

The suit filed in the firefighting crash names helicopter owner Carson, manufacturer Sikorsky Helicopters and General Electric, which made the engine. The complaint alleges that design flaws and negligent maintenance may have caused the crash. It seeks general, special and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial.

A preliminary investigation determined that the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter's main rotor lost power on takeoff as it was ferrying firefighters from the fire line. Media reports have pointed to part of the aircraft's clutch system known as the input freewheel unit, which has been implicated in four crashes involving Sikorsky S-61 helicopters in the U.S. and Canada since 2001.

— Anita Burke

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