Three years ago, a nurse named David Reshner sat in a helicopter as a member of Flight for
Life. Just 30 seconds after leaving the ground, the pilot conducted a preflight hydraulic check. In
a twist of events, the hydraulic check failed and sent the helicopter back down to earth spiraling
out of control.
Upon impact, the helicopter erupted into a ball of fire, killing the driver and leaving Reshner and
another nurse on board seriously injured.
While the cause of the crash was the hydraulic issue, the devastating news soon came that a
crash caused by such a malfunction should have survived by all on board. However, because
the helicopter was not equipped with a crash-resistant fuel system, the flames that engulfed the
helicopter made survival near impossible. Indeed, the pilot died and Reshner was not expected
to survive the burns that covered 90 percent of his body and had, in some parts, burnt
Reshner’s body down to the bone.
Most devastating of all is that the National Transportation Safety Board determined that both
issues would have been preventable if the correct care and safety measures had been taken.
After the crash, Reshner was represented by Kansas attorney, Gary Robb for the entire 2 1/2
year duration of the case. Robb and Reshner were determined to fight for adequate
compensation for the ongoing care the Reshner would need.
The two companies involved in the law suit were Airbus Helicopters, who manufactured the
aircraft, and Air Methods Corp., who were responsible for operating the helicopter. An Airbus
Helicopters spokesman, James Darcy, said that the crash was a tragedy and that the company
has now made safety improvements. Meanwhile, the Air Methods spokesman, Adam Pollack,
told the Denver Post that “safety is our highest priority, and we continue to raise the bar to
ensure that safe return of our crews and patients to their loved ones.”
Reshner’s settlement reached at total of $100 million, the responsibility for which will be shared
by both Airbus Helicopters and Air Methods.
During the court case, Robb expressed his outrage at the fact that only 15% of American
helicopters had crash-resistant fuel systems in place despite the technology having been
available by the U.S Army in the 1960s.
In the years since the crash, legislation was introduced to the U.S. House that would require all
new helicopters to be built with crash-resistant fuel systems. The legislation was introduced in
an effort to prevent fatal crashes like this one from occurring again.
The legislation was entitled the Helicopter Fuel System Safety Act and would also require the
Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that older helicopters used retrofit kits to make them
as safe as the newer models being released.