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First Mother, Now Father Files Suit Over Son's Death In Helicopter Crash


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3/3/2009
Brent Adams
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In just over a week after his mother filed suit, the father of James Smalts’ has also filed suit claiming his son died of the personal injuries he sustained in a helicopter crash due to the negligence of the aircraft’s manufacturer and owner.

On February 24, Clyde Smalts filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of James Smalts in Texas’ Jefferson County District Court. James Smalts’ mother, Gayle Spikes, filed a similar suit on February 13.

The suit, which names Rotorcraft Leasing Co. and Bell Helicopter Textron, says that Smalts died on December 11 as he was traveling to an offshore rig in a helicopter. He worked at the rig as a gauger for Island Operating Co., according to the suit.

Approximately 10 minutes after the helicopter took off, it malfunction and crashed into the ocean, which had a temperature of about 58 degrees. Smalts and four other men aboard the helicopter all died in the crash.

The suit says that when Smalts’ body was recovered, authorities found that it had been badly beaten and cut.

Smalts’ father said that he was engaged to be married at the time of the crash and that he was an “accomplished artist and loved to play guitar.”

The suit says that Smalts’ family incurred funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, and lost services due to his death. The suit further says that they lost business opportunities, suffered mental anguish, bereavement, grief, loss of Smalts’ love, affection, solace, and society, emotional distress, and lost enjoyment, services, and financial support.

Clyde Smalts claims that before the flight, the helicopter had a history of mechanical failures.

The suit says that in 2002, the helicopter rolled hard to the left before takeoff, resulting in a hard landing. Additionally, there have been at least two other helicopter crashes involving Rotorcraft aircrafts in the Gulf of Mexico since 2004, according to the suit.

The suit claims Rotorcraft and Bell breached their duty to ensure that the helicopter was without defect by failing to keep it in a proper state of repair, failing to provide proper maintenance, and failing to properly operate it.

The suit claims the helicopter was defective because of a tendency to develop problems in the engine, transmission, and mechanical and electrical systems.

Clyde Smalts claims that Bell knew the helicopter had a tendency to develop problems, but failed to warn occupants of potential hazards.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of Rotorcraft and Bell for failure to warn, failure to provide proper maintenance, failure to properly test the helicopter, failure to properly hire, train, and supervise the pilot, failure to know the dangers, failure to disclose the dangers, and failure to properly manufacture the helicopter.

Clyde Smalts seeks unspecified compensatory, actual, consequential, mental anguish, emotional distress, statutory, common law and exemplary damages.



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