A record $100-million settlement has been awarded to a medivac flight nurse who received burns to over 90 percent of their body in a helicopter crash. David Repsher, 47, was a registered nurse for Air Methods Corporation, an emergency medical transport company. The helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff in July 2015, killing the pilot and injuring another flight nurse as well as the catastrophic injuries to Repsher.
The settlement occurred about a month before the case was to come to trial. The helicopter crashed in Frisco, Colorado, about 70 miles west of Denver. The three men were to attend a Boy Scout camp event. No patients were on board.
The case revolved around the fact that the helicopter’s manufacturer, French company Airbus Helicopters SAS, failed to outfit the helicopter with a crash-resistant fuel system. The manufacturer took advantage of a loophole. Crash-resistant fuel systems were mandated for all helicopters certified (not manufactured) after 1994. The U. S. Government found as of November 2014 that eighty-five percent of U.S. registered helicopters manufactured after 1994 lacked crash-resistant fuel systems.
David Repsher’s burns covered over 90 percent of his body. Some of those burns extended down to the bone. Mr. Repsher spent 11 months in a burn intensive-care unit. He’s had over one hundred surgeries. In addition to a permanent loss of hearing, he is permanently disfigured and suffers the functional loss of his hands. He required months of physical therapy to relearn how to eat, swallow, talk, stand and walk.
The $100-million settlement is divided between Airbus Helicopters ($55 million) and Air Methods Corporation ($45 million). In addition to the fuel system issues, the investigation showed that Repsher’s seat was not adequately attached to the helicopter floor causing him to be ejected from the aircraft. The pilot of the helicopter was implicated because he turned off a hydraulic switch that delivered hydraulic pressure for the tail rotor.
Airbus Helicopters is implementing enhanced safety features on all newly manufactured aircraft. Air Methods has replaced the downed aircraft with improved safety features and has retrofitted their other helicopters.
Dave Repsher and his wife, Amanda, have established a foundation which focuses on aircraft safety for medical evacuation aircraft and to help other burn victims.