On February 14 of 2010, a helicopter crash that killed five spurred a three-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and an even longer legal battle following the probable cause report that was released.
Services Group of America owner and found Thomas Stewart was traveling by helicopter from his ranch in Flagstaff to Scottsdale on Valentine’s Day of 2010 with his wife, daughter, brother-in-law, and company pilot. The one of the helicopter’s rotor blades struck the tail rotor drive shaft, causing the aircraft to lose control and crash into a dry wash north of Cave Creek, instantly killing everyone onboard.
The NTSB report found that Stewart, who was in the co-pilot seat, had allowed his five-year-old daughter Sydney to sit on his lap during the flight. Investigators claim that Sydney accidentally kicked the collective, causing the helicopter to pitch violently down. Either Stewart or the pilot in command, Rick Morton, quickly pulled up on the collective, causing the rotor blades to bend and strike the tail.
Attorneys for the Stewart family disagree, citing a previous repair to the rotor blade that may not have been airworthy; they argue that the blade came apart first and then struck the tail, and that the NTSB’s use of Eurocopter’s simulated scenario was biased towards the manufacturer of the downed aircraft. While pilot error is often the cause of aviation accidents, lawyers said, it is also the “default” probable cause for accidents where there are many unknown factors.
The Arizona helicopter accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten extend their deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Stewart and Morton families.