Friday, February 19, 2021

Low Altitude Operation/Event: Robinson R44, N7186P; accident occurred August 19, 2019 near Cypress Island, Skagit County, Washington

Passengers Injured in Helicopter Crash Bring Civil Suit Against Skagit County Port Commissioner

The scene immediately following the crash and extrication of passengers from the wreckage.

Skagit County, Washington – Christopher Neibauer, Hannah Neibauer and Ashley Walker have filed a Lawsuit in Skagit County Superior Court related to injuries sustained in a helicopter crash on August 20, 2019, which occurred near Cypress Island, Washington.  Jonathan Yousling of GLP Attorneys represents the plaintiffs. The crash happened during an aerial photoshoot arranged by a local boat manufacturer. The boat manufacturer contracted with Mr. Kevin E. Ware, Skagit County Port Commissioner and owner of Peregrine Air, LLC, to provide helicopter flight services for the aerial photo shoot. The boat manufacturer also contracted with Christopher Neibauer, a photographer, to provide aerial photography services during the flight.

According to court documents, on the morning of August 20, 2019, pilot Mr. Ware requested that the boat manufacturer provide an employee volunteer willing to sit in the front seat of the helicopter to help with weight distribution. Ashley Walker, an employee of the boat manufacturer, took the opportunity to ride in a helicopter.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Ware negligently operated the helicopter and failed to provide his passengers and business associates with important pre-departure safety information. Near the end of the flight, and while circling over a catamaran, Mr. Ware piloted the helicopter in such a way that its rotors struck a tree branch, causing the helicopter to crash into the water. Immediately after the crash, Ms. Walker took action to help Mr. Ware and Mr. Neibauer escape the wreckage. Ms. Walker and Mr. Neibauer sustained severe injuries and economic losses.

Defendants Mr. Ware and Peregrine Air have filed an answer in response to the lawsuit. They claim, as a defense, that the plaintiffs’ injuries and damages were caused by the fault of passenger Ms. Walker:  “The Plaintiff’s Injuries and damages were proximately caused by the fault of Ashley Walker.” 

By bringing this lawsuit against Defendants Mr. Ware, the pilot in command of the flight, and Peregrine Air, the plaintiffs are seeking to recover for the injuries they suffered as a result of the crash. They also hope to find some closure after this traumatic event, which they claim could have been easily prevented with proper and safe piloting.

The helicopter circling the catamaran, moments before striking the tree branch.

GLP Attorneys is a personal injury law firm with attorneys and staffed offices throughout Washington State, including in Burlington, Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, Port Orchard, Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Vancouver. GLP Attorneys is dedicated to the effective representation of individuals and families affected by a wrongful death and personal injury. More information can be found at

Reference: Skagit County Superior Court Records 20-2-00772-29

Press Release 2/10/2021 Neibauer v. Peregrine Air LLC

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle

Peregrine Air LLC

Location: Cypress Island, Washington
Accident Number: GAA19CA509
Date & Time: August 19, 2019, 19:30 Local 
Registration: N7186P
Aircraft: Robinson R44 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Low altitude operation/event
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: 
Part 91: General aviation


The pilot reported that he began a right orbit off the shore of an island about 20 ft above the water. During the maneuver, the helicopter drifted and struck a tree leaning over the water. The helicopter subsequently lost altitude, impacted the water, and came to rest on its right side. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the main rotor blades and fuselage. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain adequate clearance from a tree while maneuvering at a low altitude.


Aircraft Altitude - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Low altitude operation/event (Defining event)
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial; Flight instructor
Age: 73,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Single-engine sea; Multi-engine land; Multiengine sea
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane multi-engine; Airplane single-engine; Helicopter; Instrument airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: April 22, 2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 11000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1500 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N7186P
Model/Series: R44 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1999
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 0611
Landing Gear Type: N/A; Skid 
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: Unknown 
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed
Engine Model/Series: O-540-F1B5
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 235 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KORS,31 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 02:35 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 308°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 160° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 29.86 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / 13°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point:
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 48.608333,-122.71611(est)


  1. Pilot crashes helicopter and blames passenger for causing injuries to other passengers?