The family of one of the victims of the deadly New York City helicopter crash is suing the helicopter company, the pilot and others following the incident on Sunday.
Trevor Cadigan‘s parents hope to “prevent what happened to their son from ever happening to anyone else” by stopping open-door chopper flights for taking aerial photos, said their lawyer, Gary C. Robb.
Cadigan and four others were on the Liberty Helicopters chopper taking photos above the East River when it had engine trouble and sank into the icy waters on Sunday night. The pilot, Richard Vance, was the only survivor.
The suit claims that the chopper’s inflatable floats malfunctioned and didn’t prevent it from flipping over and sinking, and the way passengers were harnessed to the chopper made escape impossible.
“Imagine for a second hanging upside down in frigid water, tightly harnessed with a release that is inaccessible because the access to them is only in the back,” says Robb. “I call that a death trap.”
“It is a horrible position to be in and this family wants that practice to stop,” he says. “It should never happen.”
All five deaths were due to drowning, the office of the New York City medical examiner tells PEOPLE.
A representative for Liberty Helicopters was not available for comment and referred PEOPLE to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the crash.
Liberty Helicopters and Fly On NY, the tour company that runs the experience, both said in separate statements on their websites that they are saddened by what occurred and are fully cooperating with the FAA and NTSB investigation.
According to the lawsuit, the pilot, Vance, allegedly failed to maintain proper control of the chopper, failed to properly perform emergency procedures and failed to properly secure personal items within the helicopter.
There are reports that Vance allegedly told investigators that a passenger’s luggage or a part of a passenger’s harness tripped the fuel-control cutoff valve, which then caused the engine to die.
Robb, a helicopter crash lawyer for 37 years, tells PEOPLE that Vance’s explanation is an unlikely occurrence.
“I find it highly implausible given the design of what is called the emergency fuel cutoff lever, that that could be activated by accident,” he says.
“You have to raise it and move it rearward, and there is also a breakaway safety wire affixed to it to prevent what he says happened, happened,” he says. “We find his shifting explanations highly implausible.”
The suit also claims Vance didn’t take reasonable steps to save the passengers after he secured his own release.
RELATED ARTICLE: Video Captures Helicopter Victims’ Final Moments Before Crashing in N.Y.C.’s East River
Fire Department of New York Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Sunday that rescuers struggled to remove the passengers from the chopper because they “were all tightly harnessed.”
“So these harnesses had to be removed in order to get these folks off of this helicopter, which was upside down at the time and completely submerged,” he said.
To escape the harness would require an expertise not taught during the group’s 10-minute safety video prior …read more