Wrongful death lawsuit filed in teacher's death during medical helicopter crash

Posted at 10:29 AM, Dec 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-29 14:13:42-05

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by Linda Knuckles and David Barrows for the death of their daughter, Kathy Brown. The lawsuit was filed today, December 29, in Fresno County Superior Court.

On December 10, 2015, while substitute teaching at Sunnyside Elementary School, Brown was taken by ambulance to Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville after experiencing head, shoulder and arm pain. Although the doctors preferred to keep her for treatment and observation, out of an abundance of caution, arrangements were made for her to be transported by air ambulance to San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield.

The Bell 407 helicopter operated by Rogers Helicopters, DBA SkyLife, was sent from Visalia to Porterville to pick up Brown for transport. Around 6:51 p.m., the flight crew notified dispatchers that the helicopter departed from Porterville and was heading to its destination 50 miles away.

Less than 20 minutes after departure, the helicopter crashed into terrain roughly nine miles east of McFarland. There was dense fog and heavy rain in the area. Kathy Brown was killed in the crash, along with pilot Thomas Hampl, flight paramedic Kyle Juarez and critical care nurse Marco Lopez.

Brown was 40 years old at the time of her death. 

“It is tragic that a precautionary medical flight such as this, ended with the loss of so many lives," Timothy Loranger, aviation attorney for the family, said. "A thorough investigation and understanding of the circumstances should result in increased safety for future patients and crew of med-flight helicopters.”

According to the allegations, Rogers Helicopters negligently, recklessly and carelessly operated and maintained the air ambulance that crashed into terrain. As a proximate result of the company’s conduct, Brown suffered severe physical injuries and psychological pain and suffering prior to her death.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash.

The wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for medical bills, funeral costs and damages suffered by Ms. Brown’s parents for the loss of their daughter’s service, love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace, and moral support.