The explosion in photograph-sharing platforms in social media, coupled with technological advances in photography equipment included with every cellphone has created a booming business for companies looking to provide high-end photographic opportunities, once reserved for professional photographers, to regular members of the public. Unfortunately, this boom has led to a “Wild West” mentality with few rules or regulations and tragically may have contributed to the deaths of five individuals in a helicopter crash in New York’s Hudson River.
FlyNYON and Liberty Helicopters had recently begun offering “doors off” helicopter tours of the New York City area, which allowed passengers who were secured with carabiners and harnesses to lean out of the aircraft for breathtaking photos of New York landmarks. Sadly, the harnesses and carabiners designed to keep the passengers safe ultimately trapped the passengers in the March crash in an overturned and flooded helicopter cabin and took their lives. Only the pilot survived.
“These types of operations are able to technically operate ‘in bounds’ of the rules and regulations governing these flights, but that does not mean that they have taken all of the reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their passengers,” said Joseph P. Awad, a New York Wrongful Death Attorney with the law firm Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C. Following the crash, reports surfaced that safety and crash survival training provided to passengers on these “doors off” flights consisted of a 10-minute video and little or no in-person direction. According to reports, all passengers were provided knives which could be used to cut themselves free of the harnesses, but other customers indicated that no one told them where the knife was or showed them the best way to cut through the harnesses.
Questions also surround the inflatable buoys that are mounted to the landing skids of these helicopters. The buoys, which are designed to keep the helicopter from turning over following a water landing, were mounted on the skids of the helicopter in question. However, the helicopter turned over upon landing, which ultimately caused the deaths of the passengers.
Both companies will face allegations of negligence in their operation of these flights. Any claim of negligence requires a plaintiff to show that a defendant had a duty to the plaintiff to adhere to a certain standard of care, that the defendant’s actions (or inaction) breached that duty, and that the breach caused injury to the plaintiff. In this case, much of the discussion will center on whether the companies’ limited safety training was sufficient and not the cause of the death (the injury in question) of the passengers, and whether the training was within the guidelines set out by the rules governing these flights.
Negligence lawsuits require skilled attorneys to ensure maximum recovery for their clients. Just because the claim seems obvious does not mean that it will automatically successful. If you have been injured in an accident, make sure that the attorney you hire has experience with matters like yours.