Angie Gentry, the widow of Montgomery Gentry member Troy Gentry, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with the September 2017 helicopter crash that killed Gentry and the aircraft's pilot.
Filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on February 14th, the suit names the aircraft's manufacturers – Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Inc. and the Keystone Helicopter Corporation – as defendants against claims of failing to make the civilian version of the Model 269 helicopter crashworthy, despite their knowledge that a military version of the same helicopter had been updated years earlier.
The lawsuit offers new insight into the details of the crash, including a frightening series of events in the technical timeline. According to the court filings, Gentry was set to perform at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford, New Jersey, on September 8th, 2017, when he was offered a sightseeing tour by the helicopter's pilot. The suit claims that just after lifting off, the helicopter's throttle jammed, causing the engine to rev up to high speed.
"The decision was made to shut down the engine with the mixture control (i.e., cutting off the gas) at an altitude of 959 feet, or about 850 feet above ground level, and perform a routine autorotation safely to the ground," the suit says, noting that autorotation is a procedure where the helicopter's rotors are allowed to spin freely, decelerating the aircraft for a soft landing.
"Because of defects in the engine, throttle cable attachment and collective control, the helicopter did not enter autorotation as expected," the suit alleges. "It did not disengage smartly from the transmission so the engine the rotors slowed to a speed lower than would permit a safe autorotation, thus allowing the helicopter to drop like a stone to the ground below, killing all aboard."
Additionally, the suit makes no claim of responsibility against the pilot, saying "There was no procedure in the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) to deal with this emergency, and no recommendations to afford the pilot any way out of the predicament in which he found himself."
Angie Gentry and Troy Gentry's two daughters, 15-year-old Kaylee and 24-year-old Taylor, are asking for a jury trial and unspecified damages "in excess of Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00), plus interest, costs, attorney's fees and such other relief as the Court deems appropriate."
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary report on the accident, but a full investigation is still ongoing.
According to Courthouse News Service, Sikorsky spokeswoman Callie Ferrari declined to comment, issuing a statement that reads, "We are fully cooperating with the NTSB and cannot comment further due to the investigation."
In early February, Montgomery Gentry's surviving member, Eddie Montgomery, went ahead with plans to release the duo's 20th anniversary album Here's to You and embark on a nationwide tour in its support. He and Gentry had finished recording the project just two days before the accident.