Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

Catalina Island Helicopter Crash

Catalina Island Helicopter Crash Leaves 3 Dead, 3 Injured

A chartered helicopter from Long Beach-based Island Express crashed on Catalina Island on Saturday, May 24th, killing the pilot and two passengers. The pilot of the Eurocopter AS-350 has been identified as 33 year-old Emeric Maillet of Lakewood. Colleagues of one of the passengers identified her as Tania Hurd, a teacher at John Borroughs High School in Burbank, California. The other deceased passenger is believed to be an employee of Island Express. The names of the three surviving passengers have not been released. All three survivors were flown to mainland hospitals following the crash and two have been reported to be in critical condition.

By Monday, a makeshift memorial to Tania Hurd was formed at the main entrance to the campus at John Borroughs High School. Students and faculty were stunned by the loss of Hurd, who founded the culinary arts department at John Borroughs and whose son is a ninth-grader at John Borroughs. School principal Emilio Urioste recalled that Hurd had always wanted to fly in a helicopter-tragically, her first flight on a helicopter was fatal. Relatives of Tania Hurd had docked at Two Harbors to await her arrival, and witnessed the crash.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have flown to Catalina Island to investigate the cause of the crash. A witness reported seeing a fireball erupting from the tailpipe of the Eurocopter AS-350 while it was over the water. Federal investigators have recovered the engine and according to NTSB spokesman Terry Williams, the turboshaft engine is being shipped to the manufacturer for a “teardown analysis”. Investigators suspect engine failure as the cause of the crash.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show that the Island Express helicopter departed from Long Beach and was scheduled to return to that city. The crash occurred less than one hour after the chartered helicopter picked up passengers from Catalina. The helicopter crashed near Two Harbors, on the west side of Catalina Island, a short distance from the Banning House Lodge.

According to the website for Island Express, the company offers exclusive tours of Southern California and Santa Catalina Island. Founded in 1982, the company’s website touts that it flies “four top-of-the-line turbine helicopters” and employs three mechanics. In 1985, a helicopter operated by Island Express collided with another helicopter from San Pedro after picking up passengers in Avalon, Catalina’s largest town. One person was killed and 11 people were injured.

Coincidentally, Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy’s Business Director and his family rode on Island Express helicopters on two chartered flights to Catalina just one month prior to the fatal crash.

MCM has engaged in aviation accident litigation for over 50 years. We have been involved in most of the major commercial airline accidents around the world and have represented the families of those lost in hundreds of general aviation accidents as well. Two of MCM’s attorneys are general aviation pilots while one of our attorneys flew helicopters in Vietnam.

MCM has handled many cases involving helicopters and has investigated and litigated cases against Eurocopter and Aerospatiale. In January of 1992, the divisions of MBB from Germany and Aerospatiale from France merged to form Eurocopter. MCM is currently handling a case involving the crash of a Eurocopter AS350 BA in the Grand Canyon. Our investigation revealed that the aircraft suffered hydraulic failure which led to a loss in control. The case is set for trial this summer.

Our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Emeric Maillet, Tania Hurd and the other victims of the tragic accident in Catalina.

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