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$40M suit filed in copter crash

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From Post staff reports

With a statute of limitations deadline approaching Monday, a $40 million lawsuit was filed Thursday in Wilson County Circuit Court to recover damages as a result of a helicopter crash a year ago that claimed the life of a Mt. Juliet man.

Lebanon attorney Keith Williams filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family of Robert Koudelka, of Mt. Juliet, who was killed last November when his helicopter crashed on the Wilson County side of the Cumberland River near Hwy. 109.

The lawsuit, which includes a lengthy list of plaintiffs, many of whom are corporations or businesses with out-of-state addresses, was delayed in being filed, according to Williams, largely because the Federal Aviation Administration has been slow in completing its work, including an investigation into the crash, and filing its report as to what was the likely cause of the crash.

“We still don’t have the findings of the FAA’s investigation,” Williams said, “but we had to file the lawsuit in order to meet the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations.”

Although the lawsuit has been filed, Williams said a trial date won’t be set in the case until all evidence is collected and that he said won’t happen until the FAA completes and makes available its report.

The lawsuit lists Charles J. and Carolyn Koudelka, the parents of the victim of the crash, as the plaintiffs and lists as defendants Noble Aviation, LLC; Sevier County Choppers, LLC; RediAir, LLC; Robinson Helicopter Company; Lycoming Engines; AVCO Corporation; Textron Inc.; and Ellen L. Harvey-Smith. Lycoming Engines is a Pennsylvania company, Robinson Helicopter Company is located in California, and AVCO and Textron are both Delaware corporations.According to the lawsuit, Robert Koudelka, 43, died from injuries sustained when the Robinson helicopter he was flying crashed on a flight scheduled to take him from the Lebanon airport to the Cornelia Fort Airport in Nashville on Nov. 2, 2008. The lawsuit describes Koudelka as a student pilot and alleges that the helicopter “experienced a loss of ability to maintain altitude and control” due the failure of its engine and other components and as a result caused the pilot to lose control which resulted in the helicopter crashing into the Cumberland River.

The lawsuit holds that the “dangerous and defective condition” of the helicopter led to the crash.

Noble Aviation, a Lebanon based company at the time, provided the helicopter to Koudelka the lawsuit states and Ellen L. Harvey-Smith, a Nashville resident, owned the helicopter. Sevier County Choppers and RediAir had both made inspections and provided certain maintenance and service work on the helicopters, according the complaint.

Robinson Helicopters and Lycoming Engines are charged in the lawsuit for “wrongful manufacture and sale” of the helicopter including its engine and other components.

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