HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has agreed to settle wrongful death and negligence claims in a lawsuit filed over the 2014 crash of a Navy helicopter that killed three of the five crew members on a training exercise off the coast of Virginia.
Sikorsky has reached a "settlement in principle" with the widows of the three crewmen and a survivor of the crash who filed the lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut last year, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed and await approval of a judge.
"The parties have worked out an agreement which provides for the conclusion of the claim by the families against Sikorsky in exchange for limited compensation," said Francis Fleming, a New York-based lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed on Jan. 8, 2014, about 18 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach during what the Navy said was routine mine countermeasure training.
A Navy investigation concluded that insulated electrical wires had likely chafed against a damaged fuel line, allowing a spark to escape through damaged wiring insulation and ignite fuel through holes in the line. The pilots became disoriented because of thick smoke from the fire, which led to the helicopter crashing into the ocean, investigators said.
The lawsuit blames Sikorsky and other companies for the installation of what it alleges was defective and unsafe Kapton wiring insulation. Some aviation experts believe the wiring insulation has been responsible for fires that caused other fatal aircraft crashes.
A lawyer for Sikorsky declined to comment, and a company spokesman did not return messages seeking comment. Sikorsky is owned by Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland.
Claims remain pending against other defendants in the lawsuit including Boston-based General Electric Co., Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont Co. and New York-based L-3 Communications Corp. The three companies, which deny the allegations, were involved with the manufacturing, maintenance and equipping of MH-53E helicopters. DuPont makes the Kapton insulation for electrical wires.
Killed in the crash were Lt. Sean Snyder, 39, of Santee, California; Lt. Wesley Van Dorn, 29, of Greensboro, North Carolina; and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Collins, 25, of Truckee, California. Their widows and former Petty Officer 2nd Class Dylan Boone, who survived the wreck, are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
After the crash, the Navy determined that the remaining 28 Sea Dragon helicopters were at risk because of the same wiring insulation, and crews replaced any wires and fuel lines that had deteriorated, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The Navy first identified the problem in 1987 and has spent millions of dollars replacing Kapton wiring, the newspaper reported.
The Kapton wiring on the helicopter that crashed was scheduled to be replaced, according to the lawsuit.