Settlement reached in chopper crash

Attorneys have reached a confidential settlement for one of four passengers killed in a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour crash on a Molokai mountainside in 2011.

The family of 50-year-old Stuart Robertson of Toronto reached the settlement earlier this month in U.S. District Court on Oahu against Blue Hawaiian, according to the family’s attorneys.

“I commend Blue Hawaiian for stepping up and resolving this claim. Stuart Robertson was an innocent passenger, and his family did not deserve to suffer further grief. We are grateful that we could resolve their case,” said Michael Slack of the Texas law firm Slack & Davis, which represented Robertson’s family.

In a voice-mail message, David Chevalier of Blue Hawaiian, said: “I can’t make any response (because) I’m part of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation. We are prohibited by law on making any statement until the NTSB investigation has been completed, which it has not.”

On Nov. 10, 2011, a Blue Hawaiian helicopter collided with a mountain near Pukoo. Witnesses of the crash reported hearing a “woop-wooping” sound before seeing the Eurocopter EC130 B4 descending downslope from the mountain ridgeline as fragments of wreckage fell from the helicopter, according to the NTSB. The “woop-woop” noise was later associated with the main rotor blades.

Killed were the 30-year-old pilot Nathan Cline; honeymooners and Pittsburgh residents, Michael Todd Abel, 25, and Nicole Bevilacqua-Abel, 28, who both worked as engineers at Westinghouse Electric Co.; and Robertson and his 47-year-old companion, Eva Birgitta Wannersjo of Toronto.

Robertson’s family also has claims against American Eurocopter, the manufacturer of the helicopter, attorneys said. That case is pending before U.S. District Court Judge Barry Kurren on Oahu, attorneys said.

Violeta Escobar, Cline’s widow, has sued European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., which includes subsidiaries American Eurocopter and Nevada Helicopter Leasing, the owner of the helicopter. Filed in November, Escobar’s case remains before the U.S District Court, records show.

It claims that defective design caused the crash, and that the companies should have known of manufacturing defects that could cause the structure and components of the Eurocopter E130 to fail without warning.

A witness said pieces were falling off the helicopter. At one point, a popping sound was heard when the main rotor blades “stopped and popped” off the helicopter, the witness told the NTSB.

The Abel and Bevilacqua families also filed claims against Blue Hawaiian, although those cases have not been resolved, said Honolulu attorney Richard “Rick” Fried, who is serving as co-counsel with Slack on the cases.

Fried’s office of Cronin, Fried Sekiya Kekina & Fairbanks served as co-counsel on the Robertson case against Blue Hawaiian.

Fried said that Wannersjo’s family did not file a suit.

In December, Colorado-based air medical transportation company, Air Methods Corp. acquired Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and its affiliates. Air Methods Corp.’s air medical services division is the largest provider of air medical transport services in the United States, the company said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at