Jul 27, 2014
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Judge: Helicopter Crash Lawsuit Moves Forward in its Entirety

Relatives of one of three people killed during production of a military-themed reality show for the Discovery Channel in Acton last year may continue to seek redress, judge rules.

Judge: Helicopter Crash Lawsuit Moves Forward in its Entirety

A judge declined today to trim a wrongful death lawsuit filed by family members of one of three people killed in a helicopter crash during production of a military-themed reality show for the Discovery Channel in Acton last year.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian said the relatives of Special Forces veteran Michael William Donatelli can move forward with their cause of action, alleging negligent hiring, retention and training, against Van
Nuys Copters LLC
and Orbic Air.

He also ruled against a defense motion to strike the punitive damages claim against the companies.

The suit was filed last August on behalf of Grisel Donatelli, widow of Michael William Donatelli, and the couple's children, Amanda Carolina and Dominic William. Their 45-year-old father, who also was an amateur boxer, was a cast member in the unnamed show that was being filmed on Polsa Rosa Ranch  when the Bell 206 JetRanger crashed around 3:40 a.m. last Feb. 10.

Donatelli, pilot David Gibbs, 59, and crew member and cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 46, were killed.

Also named in the suit are Discovery Communications LLC, Crossbow Inc. -- which was owned by Gibbs -- and the pilot's estate.

Van Nuys Copters and Orbic Air contracted with Gibbs and his company to fly the aircraft during production of the show, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Eric Amador, on behalf of the two companies, argued that the Federal Aviation Administration sets federal guidelines concerning the competency and standards of pilots and that the plaintiffs' attorneys made no mention of those regulations in their lawsuit.

“All we're saying is that the FAA provides standards of care for pilots,” Amador said.

However, the family's attorney, Patrick Gunning, said Orbic Air and Van Nuys Copters officials should have known that Gibbs was an unfit pilot for the assignment he was given and that he was not sufficiently trained or upervised.

Gunning also maintains in his court papers that the flight should have been aborted because of poor weather.

Two other similar lawsuits are pending. One was filed on behalf of Rodiann Donatelli, another of Donatelli's daughters and a stepsister to his other children.

The third suit was brought by Rydstrom's mother.

--City News Service

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