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Kin of copter crash victims sue firms over faulty parts

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    Marines remove a 21-ton CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter that crashed on the reef in shallow waters off Kaneohe Bay. The families of two Marines involved in the crash are suing firms involved with building the helicopter.

The family of a Kaneohe Marine killed in a helicopter crash in Kaneohe Bay and one of the crash survivors are suing the companies that designed, manufactured and serviced the aging CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter, its hydraulic system and replacement parts.

Cpl. Jonathan D. Faircloth, 22, died in the March 29, 2011, crash. The three other Marines on board, including Cpl. Ronnie Brandafino, suffered injuries.

According to a Field Flight Performance Board investigation conducted by the Marine Corps, the crash was the result of a catastrophic mechanical failure.

Brandafino and Faircloth’s wife and parents filed lawsuits in state court Thursday against helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., its parent and subsidiary companies, hydraulic system manufacturer Hydro-Aire Inc. and parts supply and service companies PKL Services Inc., J.K. Hill and Associates and Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.

Friday was the second anniversary of the crash.

The lawsuits charge the defendants with product liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

According to the lawsuits, a few minutes after the helicopter took off from Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kane­ohe Bay on a routine night training mission, the flight crew observed pressure gauge fluctuations in the second stage of the two-stage hydraulic system and a warning light indicating a pressure problem. There was no indication of a problem with the first stage of the hydraulic system.

The crew attempted to return to the base but because the hydraulic system did not supply sufficient hydraulic pressure to the primary flight control system, the crew was not able to control the aircraft and prevent its crash, the lawsuit said.

The helicopter broke apart after the Marine Corps said it made a hard impact landing on the reef in shallow waters of Kaneohe Bay.

The Navy says the twin-engine CH-53D first flew in 1964 and became operational in 1966. In the mid-1990s the Marine Corps consolidated all of its remaining Sea Stallions at Kaneohe Bay.

The Marine Corps retired the Sea Stallion in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor in February last year.

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