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$13.5M Settlement in Army Copter Crash

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

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LOS ANGELES — 

A federal judge on Wednesday approved a $13.55 million settlement of a lawsuit filed against Boeing Co. and three other companies by two soldiers who were hurt in a 2003 Army helicopter crash in Iraq.

The product liability lawsuit claimed that a gear box on an AH-64 Apache Longbow failed during a maintenance flight in Tikrit, causing the chopper to plunge 800 feet.

Former Chief Warrant Officer Juan Beltran, 34, Los Angeles, was left a quadriplegic, lost a finger and had severe head injuries. The crash shattered the spine of Chief Warrant Officer Ron Carnes, 34. He can walk but his movement is restricted, although he continues to serve in the Army, said Kevin Boyle, an attorney who represented both men.

The settlement provides more than $11.2 million to Beltran and about $2.3 million to Carnes.

Boeing spokesman Hal Klopper declined to comment.

The lawsuit claimed that the gearbox and gearbox bearings were inadequately lubricated and that a device called an accelerometer that should have warned pilots of a problem was badly designed and had failed early. It named Boeing, which built the Longbow, along with three companies that made the gearbox, bearings and the accelerometer.

Honeywell and Chadwick Helmuth made the accelerometer, MPB Corp. made the bearings and Aircraft Gear Corp. made the gearbox.

The companies did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement, and the lawsuit will be dismissed at a later date, Boyle said.

The Longbow is the Army's primary attack helicopter in Iraq and Afghanistan. Boyle said he did not know of any other lawsuits involving Longbow crashes but said that some continue to fly with the accelerometer.

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