PHILADELPHIA – Angela Gentry, the widow of country music star Troy Gentry, who was killed in a helicopter accident in Medford, N.J., last fall, has filed a survival and wrongful death action in a Philadelphia court against the companies involved in her late husband’s fatal crash.
Gentry (individually and as executrix of the Estate of Troy Lee Gentry), of Franklin, Tenn., filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Feb. 14 versus Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Inc. and Keystone Helicopter Corporation, all of Coatesville.
According to the lawsuit, Sikorsky was in the business of designing, manufacturing and selling helicopters to both the civilian and military helicopter marketplace, while Keystone was responsible for the manufacture, support, engineering, parts supply chain organization and product support for the Schweizer 269 helicopter (also known as the “Model 300CB” product line).
Manufactured in 2000, Sikorsky had purchased the Model 300CB product line from Schweizer – which was then produced at the Keystone facility, and that entity was chosen as the central support activity for the Model 269.
However, Angela alleges the helicopter contained dangers from “the lack of crashworthiness and defects in the engine, transmission and sprag clutch, throttle cables, engine attachments and absence of crashworthy features were unknown to the average user and consumer of this helicopter but well known to these defendants who made it a point to hide and deny and problems that could and did cause serious personal injury and death.”
The suit claims the military version of the Model 300CB helicopter had been updated to address these mechanical problems, but the civilian version, which Troy was riding in the day he died, had not.
On the day of Troy’s fatal crash, Sept. 8, 2017, he was to perform as one-half of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry at the Flying W Airport & Resort, in Medford, N.J. Prior to the concert, Troy was offered the opportunity to take a helicopter sightseeing tour of the area.
“Just as soon as the helicopter became airborne, the throttle cable jammed and the engine went to high speed. The decision was made to shut down the engine with the mixture control (i.e., cutting off the gas) at an altitude of 959 feet, or about 850 feet above ground level, and perform a routine autorotation safely to the ground,” the suit states.
“Because of defects in the engine, throttle cable attachment and collective control, the helicopter did not enter autorotation as expected, it did not disengage smartly from the transmission so the engine the rotors slowed to a speed lower than would permit a safe autorotation, thus allowing the helicopter to drop like a stone to the ground below, killing all aboard.”
No fault was levied against the pilot, who was also killed in the crash.
“There was no procedure in the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) to deal with this emergency, and no recommendations to afford the pilot any way out of the predicament in which he found himself,” the suit states.
A full investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board remains pending, but a preliminary report on the accident has been issued and the Sikorsky defendants are reportedly cooperating with the investigation.
In early February, Montgomery Gentry’s surviving member, Eddie Montgomery, proceeded with plans to release the duo’s 20th Anniversary album, titled Here’s To You, and tour in support of it. The album was a project which Montgomery and Troy Gentry completed recording only two days before the fatal crash.
Troy is survived by Angela and their two daughters, Kaylee, 15, and Taylor, 24.
Angela Gentry alleges the defendants failed to comply with the Federal Aviation Regulations applicable to Type Certificate Holders, failed to comply with the Federal Aviation Regulations with respect to providing Continuing Airworthiness Instructions regarding aircraft or helicopters for which it is a Type Certificate Holder and failed to provide updates, amendments and other necessary information in the POH for pilots to deal with emergencies, among numerous other charges.
For counts of negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000, plus interest, costs, attorney’s fees and such other relief as the Court deems appropriate, in addition to a trial by jury.
The plaintiff is represented by Arthur Alan Wolk and Michael S. Miska of The Wolk Law Firm, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180201141
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org