Rotorcraft Update: Oscars cameraman awarded $13 million
A former Los Angeles-area TV cameraman who was badly hurt when the helicopter he was riding in crashed while he was covering the 2000 Academy Awards for L.A. Fox network affiliate KTTV was awarded more than $13 million in damages last month. Phil Arno was photographing celebrities on March 26, 2000, when the hydraulic system failed on his Eurocopter AS 350B aerial platform. Pilot Kris Kelley steered away from the crowded downtown L.A. plaza and headed toward the helicopter’s base at Van Nuys Airport 15 miles away, where the aircraft crashed as she was attempting an emergency landing. The six-man, six-woman jury awarded Arno $3,748,002.44 for past economic and non-economic losses and $9,401,096.56 for future economic and non-economic losses. Defendants in the case included pilot Kelley and Helinet, which operated the helicopter and provides aerial news and traffic coverage under contract to several Los Angeles TV stations. KTTV was not named. According to the NTSB investigation, a post-accident examination revealed a failed hydraulic pump drive pulley bearing and subsequent drive-belt failure. In awarding the damages, jurors were given a range of between $8 million and $25 million to consider, a figure based on the 53-year-old Arno’s annual income of $150,000, the expected career years he had left and the age of his three-year-old twins.