Las Vegas: Four family members from Victoria who were injured during a crash-landing of a sightseeing helicopter in southern Nevada in December have filed a lawsuit in the US seeking more than $US400,000 ($580,000) in damages from the tour operator.

Cedomir Rakic and Amy Rakic and their children, ages 19 and 17, allege in the civil complaint filed in Las Vegas that they suffered serious spine injuries including fractures, head injuries and trauma due to “an in-flight loss of control” by the pilot while landing. The family lives in Barwon Heads, south-west of Geelong.

The Grand Canyon tour helicopter after the December 27, 2022, crash landing at the airport in Boulder City, Nevada.Credit:AP

In the complaint filed in Nevada state court on Monday (US time) the Las Vegas-based Papillon Grand Canyon Tours and parent company Papillon Airways are accused of negligence and liability.

“This family came to Las Vegas for a holiday vacation, and they left with life-altering injuries,” said Brittany Sanders Robb, attorney for the family. Robb said the lawsuit “seeks answers and accountability” from a company that she alleged “has a history of ill-fated helicopter flights involving its sight-seeing tours”.

Company president Jake Tomlin said on Thursday that Papillon was “fully cooperating and working with the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigation as to the cause of this accident.” Tomlin declined in his statement to comment about the lawsuit.

Local emergency responders and the NTSB characterised the December 27 crash at Boulder City Municipal Airport as a “hard landing,” while the Federal Aviation Administration called it a crash while landing. Officials said seven people were injured.

An NTSB preliminary report said the landing skids of the Airbus EC130 T2 collapsed and the tail boom hit the ground, “resulting in substantial damage”. A photo by a Boulder City official posted on Facebook showed the red helicopter upright in a flat desert area. There were no reports of a fire. The pilot was not identified.

A Papillon aircraft was involved in a February 2018 crash that killed three British tourists and critically injured four people on tribal land in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Robb’s firm, based in Kansas City, Missouri, also was involved in a lawsuit that resulted in a $US38 million payment to a woman who was the only survivor of a Grand Canyon tour crash in August 2001 that killed six people, including the woman’s husband and the pilot.

In that case, a mother of two from Brooklyn, New York, suffered a broken back, burns over 80 per cent of her body and had both legs amputated after the crash on a cliff near Meadview, Arizona.

The December crash occurred after a 25-minute flight that FlightAware, an air traffic database, tracked from the Grand Canyon near Kingman, Arizona, to the Boulder City airport. Boulder City is a 30-minute drive from downtown Las Vegas.


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