Friday, January 09, 2015

2013 Columbia Helicopters crash in Peru, which killed 7, spurs $110 million in lawsuits

Darrel W. Birkes, who fished each summer with his brother is seen here in Alaska July 2011, died at the age of 62 in a helicopter crash in Peru on January 7, 2013.   He worked for nearly 30 years for Columbia Helicopters. Photo courtesy Marvin Birkes

Families of six of the seven people who died in a January 2013 helicopter crash in Peru have now filed suit against Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters -- bringing the total amount sought to $110 million.

Two new wrongful death lawsuits -- representing the two Peruvians who were on board -- were filed this week in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The other five people on board were Americans and were involved in petroleum exploration.

The suits fault the companies that manufactured, owned and maintained the black Boeing-Vertol Model 234 chopper, a civilian version of a military Chinook helicopter with tandem rotors. Listed as defendants in some or all of the suits are: Columbia Helicopters; Columbia Helicopters Leasing, which owned the aircraft; and the Boeing Co., which manufactured the aircraft.

The crash occurred on Jan. 7, 2013, just outside Pucallpa, a city in eastern Peru that sits on a major tributary of the Amazon River. The suits filed this week state that the helicopter broke apart in flight for unknown reasons, and the suits both list defective components as a possible cause.

The two Peruvians who died were co-pilot Igor Abelardo Castillo Chavez and aircraft mechanic Luis Alfredo Ramos Gonzalez. The Americans were pilot Dann J. Immel of Gig Harbor, Wash.; maintenance crew chief Edwin Cordova of Florida; aircraft mechanic Jaime Pickett of Tennessee; Leon Bradford of Utah; and Darrel Birkes, who was born in Tigard and attended Sunset High School.

Birkes was 62 and living in Peru as an ex-pat. He worked as a master rigging coordinator, determining the correct loads for helicopters carrying equipment and people to oil and gas production sites.

Birkes’ estate is the only one that hasn’t filed a lawsuit, say attorneys involved in the case.

“The crash caused severe injuries including burns and other injuries that resulted in the death of (Castillo Chavez), as well as his conscious pain and suffering,” reads one of the suits.

An attorney representing Columbia Helicopters did not return a call for comment.

Story and Photo Gallery:

Helicopter Company Blamed for Crash in Peru

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The surviving relatives of two men who were killed in a helicopter crash in Peru seek to hold the company that owned the helicopters liable.

In January, a helicopter with a team of men working in oil exploration crashed shortly after taking off from the Pucallpa Airport in Peru.

Seven people, including Dann Immel and Leon Bradford, died in the crash.

The men's family members sued the Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters Leasing, which leased the helicopter that crashed, for wrongful death, negligence and product liability.

They say the helicopter crashed "due to failure and separation of its rotor."

Without naming specific details, the family members claim there was a defect in the helicopter that caused the rotor to become separated.

A representative with Columbia Helicopters declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The named plaintiffs are Dann Immel's son and parents and Leon Bradford's wife, four children and mother. Each family member seeks $15 million in damages.

They are represented by Matthew Clarke of Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP.


NTSB Identification: ERA13RA106
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Non-U.S., Commercial
Accident occurred Monday, January 07, 2013 in Pucallpa, Peru, Peru
Aircraft: BOEING-VERTOL 234, registration: N241CH
Injuries: 7 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On January 7, 2013, about 2002 universal coordinated time (1502 local time), a Boeing-Vertol 234, N241CH, operated by Columbia Helicopters Peru, S.A.C., was destroyed during an inflight breakup and subsequent impact with terrain near Pucallpa, Peru. The U.S. commercial-rated pilot, Peruvian private-rated co-pilot, and five additional company employees of both U.S. and Peruvian nationality were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The sling-load positioning flight had departed FAP Captain David Abenzur Rengifo Interbnational Airport (SPCL), Pucallpa, Peru, about 5 minutes earlier, en route to Cadet FAP Guillermo del Castillo Paredes Airport (SPST), Tarapoto, Peru, and was operating under Peruvian flight regulations.

The investigation is under the direction of the Republic of Peru.

For further information contact: 

Comision de Investigacion de Accidentes de Aviacion (CIAA)
Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil 
Avenida Jiron Zorritos 1203
Lima 1 Peru Central: 6157800

Tel: ( 511 ) 315 - 7800 

This report is for informational purposes, and only contains information released by the Republic of Peru.

 Investigators stand near the wreckage of a U.S.-owned cargo helicopter in Pucallpa, Peru,  Jan. 7, 2013. Five U.S. citizens are among seven people killed in the crash in the Peruvian jungle. The heavy-lift, twin-rotor Chinook BH-234 chopper, owned by Columbia Helicopters in the Portland suburb of Aurora, Oregon, crashed  shortly after taking off from the provincial capital of Pucallpa bound for Tarapoto. 

1 comment:

  1. I witnessed this crash from a boat on Yarina Cocha. The helicopter passed us overhead on the right, then appeared several minutes later on the left side of the boat headed back in the opposite direction. The thing was in pieces, falling in flames before it hit the ground.