ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The family of a paramedic who died in a 2008 Medevac helicopter crash in Maryland is suing the federal government for $15 million.
The attorney for flight paramedic Mickey Lippy's family said Wednesday that Lippy's wife and young daughter deserve restitution for the "negligent acts" of Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers working the night of the crash. National Transportation Safety Board members concluded the crash that killed four people was caused by a combination of factors including a pilot who was not proficient in instrument landing approaches, and air traffic controllers who provided outdated weather information.
Robert Schulte, the attorney for Lippy's family, notes in the complaint he filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt last month that weather information given to the helicopter's pilot was "hours old and highly inaccurate." Schulte says the information suggested visibility in the area was much better than it was at the time.
The complaint also faults FAA air traffic controllers for "unresponsiveness" and "inattention." Helicopter pilot Stephen Bunker, who also died in the accident, told an air traffic controller the night of the crash that he was having trouble with an electronic navigation aid used to guide planes to runways.
When Bunker asked for help landing the helicopter using ground-based radar, the Andrews Air Force Base controller told him she was not "current" in the procedure, according to the complaint. She made no additional inquiries about the pilot's plans, "nor did she render, or attempt to render, any other assistance to the aircraft," the complaint said.
Lippy and three others were killed when the helicopter went down in District Heights on Sept. 27, 2008. The sole survivor of the crash said she has been through more than 20 surgeries since the accident.
Schulte said the public expects FAA controllers to provide pilots with accurate weather information and to be trained to help in tricky situations.
"We all pay for that help and you expect a certain level of professionalism with a certain salary grade and it wasn't there that evening," Schulte said.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the federal agency does not typically speak about pending litigation.
The NTSB noted several factors that contributed to the crash. They included the pilot's limited recent experience with using instruments for flying; the failure of air traffic controllers to give him updated weather details; and the pilot's increased workload and possible fatigue due to air traffic controllers' handling of the situation.
Schulte's complaint says Lippy's wife and daughter are seeking $15 million for multiple reasons, including mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship and loss of parental care. Schulte is also seeking $1 million in a separate count on behalf of Lippy himself, for his "great fear and apprehension, and therefore conscious pain and suffering," before the craft hit the ground.