Lawsuit Filed in Mayo Helicopter Crash | News

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Lawsuit Filed in Mayo Helicopter Crash

CLAY COUNTY, Fla.-- A lawsuit has been filed in the case of the helicopter crash near Green Cove Springs last month.

All three people on the helicopter died in the crash. David Hines was the procurement technician from the Mayo Clinic on board the helicopter.

His family is suing the helicopter's operators, SK Helicopters and SK Logistics. The helicopter's owner, Abraham Holdings, is also a defendant, along with the pilot's estate.

PICTURES: NTSB Investigates Mayo Helicopter Crash

The suit says pilot Hoke Smith -- who also owned S-K Helicopters or SK Jets -- should not have made the decision to fly Dec. 26th because of poor weather conditions that morning.

Christine Hines, one of Hines' daughters, said Monday, "I don't exactly blame him (Hoke Smith). I just want justice for my father and for the doctor and even for the pilot -- Hoke Smith. It's not out to get anybody. It is justice. I don't want this happening to someone else's family. This is horrible."

PICTURES: Mayo Hospital Helicopter Crash

Robert Spohrer, attorney for the Hines' family, said this was a weather-related wreck. "And that's the responsibility of the pilot. There is no flight important enough that's worth the lives of its passengers."

Spohrer continued, "The pilot should have checked the weather, seen the weather minimums were below what could safely be maneuvered and said to the folks at Mayo, 'The weather is going down. It's not good to make the trip. We need to put the doctor and the technician in an ambulance and get them to Shands and get them back up here.'"

The pilot, Hines and Dr. Luis Bonilla of Mayo were on their way to Gainesville to recover a heart for a transplant operation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.


Bert Clark worked with Hines several years ago at the Mayo Clinic.  Clark said there was enough time to safely transport a heart via ambulance.

"It had been done before. My question is, 'Why couldn't it have been done this time?" Clark said Monday.

Spohrer said the flight should have been scratched, "given the ground fog and the overcast ceiling at 300 feet above ground level. And we know the area of the crash was 100 feet above sea level, so this gives a narrow band to maneuver in the dark."

The Hines' family is also suing the helicopter's owner, Abraham Holdings. Spohrer said according to state law, the owner of an aircraft is responsible for its safety.

Spohrer explained the BELL 206 helicopter did not have a radar altimeter.

"It's an optional piece of equipment, but when flying at low levels it's important to have that," Spohrer added.

First Coast News placed a call to SK Logistics Monday afternoon. Gary Fernandez answered. He said he's the chief pilot there. He also said Derrik Smith, the owner's son and vice president of the company, is no longer at the business.  Fernandez said Smith had another job offer and moved on within the last few weeks.

Fernandez said he didn't know much about the lawsuit.

The Hines family is suing for a minimum of $15,000.

Hines' youngest daughter, Crystal Griner, said their father's loss has been difficult. "He was here one day and gone the next. It wasn't like he was dying from a disease. He the blink of an eye."

First Coast News placed a call to the home of Hoke Smith's widow. A woman who answered the phone said Mrs. Smith was not able to talk and added that the crash has been a tragic ordeal for the Smith family as well.

Christine Hines said her family sends condolences to the Smith family.


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