Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against FAA Over Medevac Crash

The mother of a 17-year-old girl killed in a 2008 Maryland Medevac crash has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), alleging that air traffic controllers provided the pilot incorrect information, contributing to the fatal helicopter accident

The complaint was filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland by Stephanie Younger, whose daughter, Ashley Younger, was one of four people killed when a helicopter transporting her to a nearby hospital crashed on September 27, 2008.

Younger and Jordan Wells had been in an automobile accident earlier that day and were being flown to Prince George’s County Hospital. However, the flight was diverted to Joint Base Andrews, formerly Andrews Air Force Base, due to adverse weather conditions. The medevac helicopter crashed in the woods of District Heights’ Walker Mill Regional Park. Younger was one of four people who died in the crash, also including the pilot, a paramedic and a field provider. Wells was the only survivor.

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An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the crash was due to an inexperienced helicopter pilot being given outdated weather information by Joint Base Andrews air traffic controllers.

The lawsuit by Younger’s mother comes a month after the State of Maryland also sued the FAA for failing to ensure the FAA air traffic controllers were trained and prepared to handle ground-based radar guides. The latest lawsuit charges the FAA personnel with negligence and claims that the air traffic controllers ignored calls from the helicopter pilot, who was asking for assistance for his final runway approach before the accident. Both lawsuits claim that the pilot was given weather information that was five hours old at the time of the accident.

In September 2009, the NTSB called for new, more stringent, medical helicopter safety regulations due to the record number of medical helicopter fatalities in 2008. Including the deaths of Younger and the others aboard the medevac flight, 29 people were killed nationwide when medical helicopters went down that year.

The increased number of accidents came during a boom in the number of emergency medical flight services, which some say is connected to Medicare rule changes in 2002 that made it easier to get reimbursed for medical rescue flights. Over the last decade the number of emergency medical flight operators has increased more than 80 percent.

The NTSB has long complained that medical helicopters operate without some of the most basic flight safety equipment, such as “black box” log recorders, collision-avoidance systems and radar altimeters. However, the helicopter industry has fought strict increased regulation in favor of voluntary compliance.


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