The widow of a Montgomery County man who died in August after the plane he was piloting collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River has filed a lawsuit against the chopper company and related entities.
Pamela Altman, the widow of Steven Altman, of Ambler, is suing Liberty Helicopters Inc. of Linden, N.J.; the helicopter company's owner; its manufacturer; and various insurers.
About noon Aug. 8, a single-engine plane piloted by Steven Altman, 60, and a Liberty Helicopters sightseeing chopper collided above the river in New York City. The crash killed all nine people aboard the two aircraft.
Altman had flown from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey with his brother, Daniel, 49, and Daniel Altman's 16-year-old son, Douglas. They were heading to Ocean City, N.J.
The helicopter, piloted by Jeremy Clarke, 32, of Ocean County, New Jersey, carried five Italian tourists.
Federal safety officials have said that just before the crash, an air-traffic controller at Teterboro had been on a personal phone call and failed to warn Altman of other aircraft in his path and also failed to correct Altman when the pilot read back a wrong radio frequency.
Center City attorney Arthur Alan Wolk, a specialist in aviation law and a pilot who had known Steven Altman, filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of Pamela Altman in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. It seeks more than $150,000 and a jury trial.
Wolk said last night that Liberty had been operating as if it had a "free-for-all" of the airspace.
Asked about the Teterboro Airport controller, who is not named in the lawsuit, Wolk said he believes the controller bears the "primary responsibility for this accident."
But he said that in order to sue the Federal Aviation Administration, the controller's employer, he first must file an administrative claim with the FAA, which he has done, and which is a separate process.
In addition to Liberty, the suit names Meridian Consulting I Corp., of Linden, N.J., which owned the helicopter, and American Eurocopter, of Grand Prairie, Texas, which manufactured and sold the chopper, as defendants.
The suit contends that Liberty and Meridian had a "horrid history" of acting carelessly and recklessly over the Hudson River. It alleges that American Eurocopter failed to equip the helicopter with safety systems to avoid a crash.
Efforts to reach officials at Liberty, Meridian and American Eurocopter late yesterday afternoon were not successful.
The lawsuit also names a group of companies that insured Liberty or Meridian - United States Aviation Underwriters, United States Aircraft Insurance Group, Allianz Global Risks US Insurance, and Arch Insurance Company - as defendants.
Last month, the insurers, Liberty and Meridian filed a lawsuit against Steven Altman's estate in New Jersey Superior Court.