The families of the victims of a fatal California helicopter crash are preparing for the beginning of a wrongful death trial nearly two years after the accident took the lives of their loved ones. The three California Fish and Wildlife Department employees were conducting an aerial survey of the deer population at the time of the crash.
Two United States Forest Service enforcement officials witnessed the crash. From their description, it sounds like the helicopter came within the vicinity of a grounding cable strung high above a set of power lines. The helicopter attempted to rear back to avoid the line but suddenly plunged to the ground. After the crash, the helicopter was consumed by fire. The lawsuit was initially filed as separate suits against the utility that owned the lines and the owner of the helicopter, the suits were subsequently consolidated.
Generally, these grounding cable are within just a few feet of the power lines, but in this case the power lines themselves sagged more than 100 feet down below the grounding line into which the aircraft crashed. The National transportation Safety Board indicated that the crash was likely caused by a failure to see the line before colliding with it.
Industry standards call for any such static lines to be fitted with warning devices, presumably to increase visibility of the line and avoid this type of accident. At the time of the accident, a spokesman for the utility company indicated that they had never marked that line because no one had ever asked them to.
Source: The Fresno Bee "Fish & Game copter crash trial to begin in L.A." John Ellis, Nov. 12, 2011