Children claim father's death in helicopter crash due to replacement windshield

Kelly Holleran May 13, 2009, 2:25pm

A Webb County woman has filed a suit on behalf of her four minor children after their father died in a helicopter crash.

Lidia E. Sanchez says Ezequiel Cantu Jr. was about seven minutes into a flight in a Sikorsky S-76C helicopter when it crashed in a swamp near Morgan City, La., on Jan. 4.

At the time of the crash, the helicopter was chartered to Shell Oil Co. and was being used to transport Shell employees to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the complaint filed May 8 in Jefferson County District Court.

The suit states that the cause of the crash was the helicopter's windshield. Sanchez alleges the helicopter's owner, PHI, replaced the original windshield with a lightweight cast acrylic windshield designed by Aeronautical Accessories.

Because of their father's death, minor children Lizette Janely Cantu, Karla Michelle Cantu, Ezekiel Cantu and Edgar Ezekiel Cantu have suffered a loss of companionship and society, sustained mental anguish and have lost inheritance, Sanchez claims.

Included as defendants in the suit are helicopter owners PHI and Petroleum Helicopters, Aeronautical Accessories, helicopter designer Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Kim Martin as personal representative of the estate of Vyarl Martin and Ann L. Ballenger as personal representative of the estate of Thomas Ballenger.

The plaintiff alleges Sikorsky is liable because at the time it sold the helicopter it failed to warn of the dangers of replacing a windshield, failed to warn of dangers associated with the helicopter, failed to disclose known problems and defects and marketed the helicopter as safe when it was not.

According to the complaint, Aeronautical Accessories, the manufacturer of the replacement windshield, is negligent because it failed to warn of dangers of the product and failed to provide instructions on how to avoid the dangers.

Vyarl Martin and Thomas Ballenger were employees of PHI, who negligently operated the helicopter at an unsafe speed, the suit states.

Sanchez is seeking unspecified damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which she may be entitled.

She is represented by Miguel J. Chapa of Chapa and Nevarez in San Antonio.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A184-003.

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