Defective Helicopter and Wrongful Death Lawsuit Remains in Illinois Court

A defective aircraft and wrongful death lawsuit will continue court proceedings in Illinois, ruled the Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District, Sixth Division. Michael Russell flew an emergency medical service helicopter for Air Angels, Inc. throughout Cook County.

He died when the aircraft he was piloting crashed. His family subsequently discovered that one of the helicopter’s drive-shaft bearings fractured, causing the tail rotor not to work. A French company, SNFA, made the allegedly defective part, and unsuccessfully tried to keep the case out of Illinois courts.

SNFA makes custom tail rotor and aerospace bearings, and in America supplies aerospace parts to companies such as Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell, and the jet-engine division of Rolls Royce. The helicopter Russell flew was an A 109 helicopter by Agusta S.p.A made in 1989 and owned by the Air Angels since April of 2002. The original bearings were replaced in 1998 and again in 2002, with SNFA supplying the replacement parts.

Air Angels’ crew of pilots, nurses, and paramedics transported thousands of patients to healthcare centers throughout Illinois and Indiana. Over the last few years, they have experienced financial and other legal troubles that have caused them to cease operations in Illinois. Russell’s deadly flight was to be his last day on the job due to maintenance concerns he had with the helicopters. Over the years, he expressed concerns to his wife Gloria that “his radio had quit several times during flights, forcing him to use a cell phone instead. The heater frequently didn’t work, either. He also had found nuts and bolts lying around the helicopter,” she recalled.

Russell was an experienced pilot, with close to 12,000 logged hours in planes and helicopters, and was awarded a Purple Heart from the Army after being shot down several times in the Vietnam War in a helicopter. The crash with Air Angels seemed odd to his wife as he crashed after a routine refueling at DuPage Airport.

“He told me that if anyone ever called me and told me that he had died in a helicopter crash, to make sure it was investigated fully, because there was no way he would ever die in a helicopter crash unless it was mechanical failure and something he couldn’t control,” his wife said.

“It is so tragic for a family to lose a loved one due to someone’s carelessness, especially when it’s possible that the accident could have been avoided,” said Chicago wrongful death attorney and SuperLawyer Paul A. Greenberg, Esq. “A victim has the right to take legal action to determine who was careless or negligent.”

The experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg help families get fair compensation after a loved one has wrongfully died. They are experts at guiding their clients to recover financial losses, funeral expenses, and other costs incurred. All wrongful death cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there are no fees unless the case is successful.

To learn more, visit or call 877-595-HURT (4878).

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