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HomeMedico-LegalUS manufacturer sued over fatal Netcare air-ambulance crash

US manufacturer sued over fatal Netcare air-ambulance crash

The manufacturers of a Netcare aero ambulance helicopter, which crashed in January 2021 and killed all five occupants, must have been aware of a critical maintenance warning to prevent structural faults in the machine's rotor blades components as far back as 2018, according to documents filed in a US court.

Global helicopter manufacturing giant Bell Textron stands accused by the family of the pilot of only acting on that information six months after the deadly accident in SA and at least three years after a similar crash in Angola. Bell denies all the accusations.

The SA Civil Aviation Authority said the helicopter, which crashed en route to KwaZulu-Natal in January 2021, broke apart in midair and the impact was “not survivable”.

According to a TimesLIVE report, the Bell 430 helicopter took off from Ultimate Heli heliport in Midrand, Gauteng, heading to Hillcrest Hospital in KZN on 21 January. On board with the pilot were a helicopter paramedic, two doctors and a theatre nurse and 12 bottles of oxygen.

“After approximately 1.5 hours in flight and cruising at 725ft [221m, above ground level], the helicopter started to spin uncontrollably, breaking up in flight while losing height rapidly. The helicopter impacted the ground and immediately post-impact fire erupted, which destroyed the helicopter. All five occupants on board were fatally injured,” reads the report.

Netcare identified the victims as anaesthetist Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu and specialist cardiothoracic and transplant theatre nurse Mpho Xaba.

Also killed were Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, and the pilot Mark Stoxreiter, who worked for National Airways Corporation.

It would have taken just 13 hours and cost R13,652 to carry out the lifesaving maintenance on critical rotor components of the machine, but according to the Sunday Times Daily, a 2018 Angolan aviation accident report, contained in public documents from a lawsuit currently before a Texas Federal Court, indicates it took Bell until July 2021 to release the required updated maintenance schedules and procedures for the aircraft’s main rotor pitch link clevises and rod ends. The report is accessible through court documents filed in a case brought by the family of pilot Mark Stoxreiter.

The Stoxreiter family’s lawyers argue the aviation reports show that Bell was made aware of the fault by Angolan authorities but only acted after the same Bell-430 model crashed years later in SA. Bell spokesperson Grace Dieb declined to respond, citing the ongoing litigation with the Stoxreiter family. According to Bell’s responding court papers, notes the Sunday Times Daily report, it had examined the components of the Angolan crash but denied it had refused to take action after the crash, issue warnings, or that the Angola crash involved a sudden, catastrophic mechanical failure.

The company refuted the Stoxreiter family’s claims it was negligent and responsible for the Netcare crash, stating it had no control over the event. It said the court case should be argued in SA and claimed it was not responsible for maintaining maintenance and operating manuals and procedures for all Bell-430s.

 

Sunday Times Daily article – ‘Helicopter giant knew of fatal maintenance schedules before Netcare crash’ (Open access)

 

TimesLIVE article – Netcare 911 helicopter 'broke up in flight', preliminary probe finds (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

SACAA preliminary report into Netcare helicopter crash released

 

 

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