Leonardtown, MD – Two surviving Army helicopter pilots, along with the widow of a soldier who died after their craft crashed on a St. Mary’s County golf course in April 2017 are suing the manufacturer of the UH-60L Blackhawk. According to the law firm filing the suit in Connecticut on behalf of Captain Terikazu Onoda and his wife Faith; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Nicholas and Jessica Tomlin, widow of the crewmember who died in the crash; Sikorsky Aerospace Services Inc. and its parent company Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation were named as the defendants.
Specialist Jeremy D. Tomlin, 22 of Chapel Hill, TN; died from injuries sustained from the crash that occurred April 17 at approximately 1:18 p.m., at Breton Bay Golf Course in Leonardtown. The suit was filed by Timothy Loranger, an attorney who specializes in litigating aviation accidents.
The suit, filed Monday, Dec. 10 in the Connecticut Supreme Court, cites what Loranger indicated was a defect in the manufacturing process” as a factor in the crash. Sikorsky is based in Connecticut.
“The post-crash investigation revealed that the vibrations, loss of the trail rotor gearbox, loss of control in the yaw axis, and the resulting crash was caused by a failure of the materials used to bond the tail rotor blade within the tail rotor section,” a press release from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman—Loranger’s law firm–stated. “According to investigators, the loss of the tail rotor gear box caused an imbalance of the helicopter so that the pilots were unable to maintain directional control of the aircraft, causing the helicopter to impact the trees.”
The three soldiers were stationed at Fort Belvoir, VA and part of the 12th Aviation Battalion. They were on a training flight when the crash occurred. Onoda has stated that the craft’s tail rotor gearbox separated from the aircraft less than one minute before the crash. Several local residents observed the craft spinning out of control prior to the crash. One of the witnesses told TheBayNet.com that she thought the copter crew “was doing tricks” prior to disappearing and crashing at the golf course. Golfers, local residents, area first responders and law enforcement converged on the crash site prior to the arrival of military authorities.
Tomlin was pronounced dead at the scene. Onoda and Nicholas were rushed to the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, Baltimore. Loranger stated that Onoda and Nicholas have sustained permanent physical and psychological damage as well as potential financial hardship due to the curtailment of their military careers. He said it would be up to a jury to decide a compensation amount for the soldiers.
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