The Robinson R44 helicopter’s engine lost power and plunged into a golf course fairway at Terrace Downs Resort where the bride and groom had earlier exchanged their wedding vows. Photo / George Heard
A newly married New Zealand couple and their wedding photographer have filed a personal injury lawsuit in the US against Robinson Helicopter Company and several aircraft parts manufacturers after suffering severe injuries in a crash two years ago.
Fay El Hanafy and Mahdi Zougub had just exchanged vows and said “I do” in front of their closest family and friends when guests watched on in horror as the helicopter taking the newlyweds away for a photoshoot plummeted to the ground.
The young couple, along with photographer Rachel Jordan, were badly injured when the R44 helicopter crashed onto Terrace Downs Resort golf course in Mid Canterbury on June 12, 2021.
Today, aviation attorneys Timothy A Loranger and Ari S Friedman, of the Los Angeles law firm Wisner Baum, filed a complaint in LA County Superior Court on behalf of the trio, along with Jordan’s husband, Eric.
The lawsuit seeks damages against defendants Robinson Helicopter Co, Avco Corporation/Lycoming Engines, Weldon Pump, LLC, and Parker Hannifin Corporation.
The helicopter that crashed was a Robinson R44 II model helicopter containing a Lycoming IO-540 model engine, a Parker Hannifin pressure relief valve, and a Weldon Pump auxiliary fuel pump. Robinson is a California corporation based in Torrance, Avco (Lycoming is an unincorporated operating division of Avco) is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Texas, and both Weldon Pump and Parker Hannifin are Ohio corporations.
Not long into the flight, the R44 suffered a loss of engine power suddenly and without warning.
The helicopter entered a rapid descent from a low altitude and landed hard on its skids near the ninth hole of the golf course at Terrace Downs Resort.
The helicopter suffered serious damage, including separation of the tail boom and tailor rotor system.
According to the complaint, the newlyweds each suffered serious and permanent physical and psychological injuries as well as a loss of consortium.
Jordan suffered serious and permanent physical and psychological injuries, and her husband suffered “a loss of consortium”.
“The injuries suffered from the crash have essentially put an end to Rachel’s very successful career as a top professional wedding photographer in Northland, New Zealand,” Wisner Baum says
“Her and her husband’s company, Two Little Starfish, had become a household name in the New Zealand wedding industry.”
The LA law firm cites government crash data from the National Transportation Safety Board shows that Robinson helicopters have been involved in more than 1650 incidents and accidents since 1983. Of those, 411 were fatal. It says the R44, which is Robinson’s most popular model, has been involved in more than 550 incidents and accidents (187 fatal) over the same time period.
“Unfortunately, protecting profit margins is often more important to manufacturers than protecting the people that fly their aircraft,” said Loranger, who is representing the plaintiffs.
“Robinson helicopters must do more to identify and resolve safety issues that all too often injury or take the lives of pilots and passengers..”
The lawsuit alleges strict product liability, breach of warranties, and negligence against all defendants.
Wisner Baum has investigated and handled 20 crashes involving R22s, R44s or R66s, representing 34 passengers or pilots, in wrongful death or personal injury claims involving Robinson helicopters.