Air Angels pilot negligent, careless: suit

Deadly crash 'totally preventable,' says lawyer for girl's parents



Dan Campana | | Thursday, January 8, 2009

CHICAGO -- A helicopter pilot allegedly was over-stressed and careless in the October Air Angels' crash that killed four people in Aurora, a lawsuit claimed Tuesday.

The suit by the family of 14-month-old Kirstin Blockinger -- the Leland girl killed in the crash -- also claimed Air Angels and its parent company, Reach Medical, failed to follow federal recommendations for medical helicopter flights.

Angels and Reach Medical allegedly didn't include the use of a terrain warning and awareness system and a risk assessment program. Lawyers said such provisions, as well as a two-pilot team at the controls, would have prevented the crash.

"This accident that took her life . . . is totally preventable," said lawyer Donald Nolan as the girl's parents, Brooke and Robert Blockinger, sat somberly with pictures of Kirstin displayed in front of them.

The suit, filed in Cook County, was against Air Angels Reach Medical Holdings, and the estate of 69-year-old pilot Del Waugh, who also died when the chopper struck a radio tower and went down in a field.

The suit claimed Waugh "negligently and carelessly" flew the helicopter. Nolan said specifics would come out later, but he pointed out Waugh's age, the multiple responsibilities the pilot faced during an emergency flight and that Waugh was dealing with "personal stress issues as a result of a divorce."

Air Angels said in a statement: "This situation is a tragedy and our sympathies go out to everyone involved. At this time, until we review and learn more about the specifics of the lawsuit, we have no comment."

Waugh, a U.S. Army veteran, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday. Aside from Waugh and the girl, killed were Air Angels crew members Ron Battiato and William Mann.

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Related Topics: Legal and Ethical, Provider Wellness and Safety, Operations and Protcols

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