Cypress Island, a popular tourist and destination wedding spot, has come under scrutiny after a helicopter crash that took place back in August of 2019. The helicopter went down around 7pm after the blades clipped a tree, sending Christopher and his wife, Hannah Neibauer into the water. Ashley Walker, another passenger on the flight provided by Peregrine Air, LLC, are now suing Commissioner Kevin Ware through a personal injury suit for his role in the crash. The lawsuit was officially filed on December 7th of 2020 in the Skagit County Superior Court. Both Ware and Peregrine Air (Ware’s company) are being targeted by the complaint.
So What Happened?
While this story at first glance looks like a classic case of the tourist trap, it is more complicated than the surface value implies. According to the lawsuit affidavit (a legal document you swear contains the truth under penalty of perjury), Commissioner Kevin Ware provided his services as a helicopter pilot to Ashley Walker, Christopher Neibauer, and Hannah Neibauer. Ware was to take the trio to a local boat manufacturer, Aspen Catamarans for an aerial photo shoot session. According to the affidavit, Christopher Neibauer was hired by Aspen Catamarans for his services as a photographer. In the trios court statement they said that the helicopter rotor blades clipped a tree branch around 20 to 30 feet above sea level, causing the helicopter to shift violently to the right and crash into the water.
Ashley Walker goes on to say in the report that she helped Kevin Ware out of the helicopter and led him to shore. When she returned to retrieve Christopher Neibauer, the helicopter was completely submerged underwater. The trio claim that they suffered extensive and permanent physical, mental, and emotional damage from the crash. They are seeking damages for medical bills, as well as pain and suffering.
The Other Side of the Story
Kevin Ware gave his response to this report on January 22nd of 2021. He stated in his report that the crash was not caused by his own negligence, but surprisingly, Ashley Walker. He is requesting the court throw out the case entirely.
The National Transportation Safety Board has since investigated the crash, concluding that the most probable cause of the crash was the pilot’s (Kevin Ware) “failure to maintain adequate clearance from a tree while hovering at low altitude”.