Lawsuit blames pilot for helicopter crash
TIMES LEADER - WILKES-BARRE, PA
By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER
A company is accused of negligence for hiring pilot who crashed helicopter killing a former Mountaintop resident.
WILKES-BARRE - The pilot was to blame for a helicopter crash in North Carolina last year that killed a former Mountaintop woman, her husband and three other people, a lawsuit alleges.
Pamela Dadey and the others lost their lives because pilot John Elliott was flying at a drastically low altitude in an apparent attempt to escape heavy fog, said Joseph Quinn, attorney for Dadey's parents, Dale A. and Cheryl Nicholson of Fairview Township.
The Nicholsons have a lawsuit pending in a Mecklenburg County, N.C., against U.S. Helicopters, Inc., the owners of the aircraft that crashed May 25, 1998, while ferrying the Dadeys and two of their friends from the Charlotte Motor Speedway near Monroe. The foursome had just finished watching the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.
The suit, filed in December, is expected to go to trial in North Carolina early next year, Quinn said. Quinn, of the law firm Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn in Wilkes-Barre, is lead counsel in the case. Attorneys Allen and Michael Bailey of Charlotte, N.C. are co-counsel.
Quinn said Elliott was flying a Bell 206 L-3 Long Ranger helicopter at an altitude of about 150 feet when the aircraft hit high tension power lines around 12:30 a.m.. The helicopter then slammed into a state highway, killing Dadey, 26, her husband, Kevin, 25 and the couple s friends, Craig Rudolph, 33 of Charlotte and Alexandra Schiffers, 30, of Matthews, N.C. Elliott, 49, of Lawndale, N.C. also was killed.
Quinn maintains Elliott should have been flying at an altitude of at least 500 feet. He said he believes Elliot was flying low because he was trying to fly beneath the fog. That would have allowed him to use the highway as a visual guide.
Quinn said Elliott should have taken the aircraft above the fog.
He alleges Elliot did not do that because it would require him to fly by instruments alone, and he was not certified to do that.
"Clearly, any skilled pilot will tell you when you encounter fog the prudent thing to do is to try to get above it," Quinn said.
Pamela Dadey was a field hockey player at Crestwood High School and an accomplished collegiate golfer at Penn State University. She and her husband, a golf pro at a North Carolina country club, had purchased a home shortly before their deaths, Quinn said.
"This was devastating to her family. They are just so overwhelmed by this," said Quinn, who added that Dadey was close with her parents, who often scheduled vacations so they could golf together.
"One of the ironies is her mother had hit a hole in one the day this happened. She couldn t wait to talk to Pam and tell her. Then she gets the call this terrible accident happened," Quinn said.
The lawsuit claims Elliot was negligent for falling to obtain a weather report prior to the flight that would have warned of the potential for fog, and for failing to return to the speedway after encountering the dangerous weather conditions. The suit further claims Elliott was familiar with the terrain, and should have known the high tension wires existed in the area of the crash.
U.S. Helicopters is accused of negligence for employing a pilot who was not instrument rated when it knew its pilots flew at night and under weather conditions that required use of instruments alone.
Quinn said claims filed on behalf of Kevin Dadey and Rudolph were settled out of court. A lawsuit filed by Schiffers family is pending.