FAA Grounds Doors-Off Helicopter Flights Without Quick-Release Harnesses

Cadigan family, lawyer issue statements after FAA issues order blocking some flights

The Federal Aviation Administration is grounding all "doors off" helicopter operations that involve restraints that cannot be released quickly in an emergency.

The notice comes Friday, nearly a week after five people drowned March 11 when a helicopter crash landed in New York City's East River. Only the pilot escaped the crash, leading many to question whether the passengers were equipped or informed on how to escape during an emergency.

The FAA released the following message on Twitter at about 1 p.m.

Helicopter operators, pilots and consumers should be aware of the hazard from supplemental restraint devices during an emergency evacuation during “doors off” flights. The FAA will order operators and pilots to take immediate action to control/mitigate this risk. Until then, the FAA will order no more “doors off” operations that involve restraints that cannot be released quickly in an emergency. Additionally, the FAA will conduct a top to bottom review of its rules governing these flights to examine any potential misapplication that could create safety gaps for passengers.

The FAA did not specify what constitutes an easy release and the notice brings about many questions for the helicopter tourism industry.

Killed in the crash were 29-year-old Carla Vallejos Blanco, an Argentinian tourist, longtime 26-year-old friends Brian McDaniel, a Dallas firefighter, and Trevor Cadigan, a New York resident from Dallas-Fort Worth whom McDaniel was visiting, and two helicopter employees -- 29-year-old Tristan Hill, 34-year-old Daniel Thompson.

Cadigan's family, who filed a lawsuit against the helicopter operator earlier this week, released a statement Friday afternoon saying, "The family of Trevor Cadigan is extremely gratified and appreciative of today's actions by the FAA -- barring these dangerous flights."

In an emotional interview Wednesday, Caton Cadigan and Kathleen Howard, the mother and sister of nyc helicopter crash victim Trevor Cadigan, say the SMU graduate made every day of his life count and was a "zany" adventurer who "always left a lasting impression."

The Cadigan's lawyer, Gary Robb, also released a statement saying, "This action was long overdue and while appreciated is too late to save any of these young people who drowned to death in this tragic helicopter crash."

In their suit the Cadigan family is seeking unspecified damages and spotlighted the helicopters harness-restraint system and that the inflatable floats on the chopper's skids failed to keep the aircraft from rolling over and sinking.

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