Air death case moves to US

Pictures Bill Johnson. Helicopter crash at Barnaby Sands, Over Wyre. The scene from Thornton looking across the River Wyre.
Pictures Bill Johnson. Helicopter crash at Barnaby Sands, Over Wyre. The scene from Thornton looking across the River Wyre.
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THE families of two men killed when their helicopter crashed in Over Wyre have welcomed a decision which takes them a step closer to discovering what went wrong.

Vowing to leave “no stone unturned” in their bid to understand what caused the crash near Knott End in September 2009, the families of pilot Steven Lewis, 38 and his student 45-year-old Philip Gray, have launched a six-figure lawsuit against the aircraft’s American manufacturer the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation and 10 component suppliers.

After more than a year of legal wrangling, the families have finally been told their case will be heard in a US court, giving their UK lawyers access to key evidence and witnesses.

Steven’s brother Adrian Lewis said: “Steven was a fantastic brother and a superb pilot.

“His tragic and untimely death is so difficult to comprehend. The key thing in our battle for justice for Steven is ensuring the helicopter manufacturer is thoroughly investigated and no stone left unturned to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

“It is clear for this to happen the investigation needs to be held in the country where the judge has access to all the evidence and witnesses to hand – the US.

“We hope the case will progress quickly so we finally have answers about why he was taken from us and have peace of mind that any potential faults are identified asap to prevent a similar crash so that his death was not in vein.”

Mr Lewis, of from Rainhill, Merseyside, and Mr Gray, from Mawdsley, Chorley, died when their helicopter came down at Barnaby Sands just after noon on September 22, 2009.

Inquests into their deaths heard the pilot made a ‘mayday’ call around 20 minutes into the training flight as they passed over Poulton and Carleton, shortly before coming down on the banks for the River Wyre.

Eye witnesses described a stuttering noise and paid tribute to the bravery of the pilot who appeared to steer the craft away from residential areas.

The coroner gave a narrative verdict after the jury was unable to “clearly state what the sequence of events were that caused the loss of usable engine power”, leaving the families with questions still to be answered.

Jim Morris, aviation expert from law firm Irwin Mitchell, represents both families and, in September 2011, filed the case with a court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He said: “A motion filed by the defendants to have the case sent back to the UK resulted in 16 months of legal arguments which came to a conclusion this month when a Federal Court judge ruled the case will be heard in the States.

“The ruling is the start of a lengthy process which could take several years to be resolved but what is key for the families is that the results of the investigation will lead to improvements in flight safety.”

The Schweizer Aircraft Corporation was unavailable for comment.

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