Lawyer Who Hit A Black Hawk With A Snowmobile Is Suing The Government For $9.5 Million

The Black Hawk helicopter landed on an airfield that doubled as a snowmobile trail. - Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
The Black Hawk helicopter landed on an airfield that doubled as a snowmobile trail. - Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

A Massachusetts lawyer is taking the U.S. government to court after he crashed into a camouflage Black Hawk helicopter that was parked on an airfield often used by snowmobilers. The crash, which occurred in March 2019, left lawyer Jeff Smith in need of surgery and facing lost wages and high medical bills, which he’s now hoping to claim back from the government.

Smith was out enjoying a crisp winter’s evening on his snowmobile five years ago when he crashed into the tail of a Black Hawk helicopter that was parked up while its crew undertook nighttime training exercises, reports NBC News. The crash and the ensuing surgeries Smith had to endure left him without the use of his left arm, respiratory issues and he claims he hasn’t “been able to work full time” ever since.

The legal team representing Smith initially attempted to claim damages from the government, but the case was dismissed “several times” as lawmakers reportedly can’t be “sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act since this involves a policy decision,” reports NBC.


Now, the case will head to court in Massachusetts where lawyers are fighting for $9.5 million in damages. The figure will cover Smith’s medical bills since the incident and make up for lost income since the crash. As NBC explains:

Smith’s lawyers in the yearslong court case argue that the crew of the Black Hawk helicopter that flew down from New York’s Fort Drum for night training was negligent for parking a camouflaged 64-foot (19.5-meter) aircraft on a rarely used airfield also used by snowmobilers. Smith also sued the owner of Albert Farms airfield in Worthington, Massachusetts — accusing them of both giving permission to snowmobilers to use the trail and the Blackhawk crew to land in the same area. He settled with the farm owner for an undisclosed sum.

Smith argues that the crew didn’t do enough to protect him, including failing to warn snowmobilers of the helicopter’s presence on the trail, leaving the 14,500-pound aircraft unattended for a brief time and failing to illuminate it. The helicopter landed on an air strip approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the crew members testified that trainings are often conducted in similar locations. But Smith, who said he had snowmobiled on the trail more than 100 times, said the last time an aircraft used it was decades ago when he was a child — and never a military aircraft.

Lawyers for Smith’s case argue that it’s “incompatible” to allow the military to land choppers on airfields that are open to snowmobiles. Lawmakers also claim that the crew of the helicopter wasn’t told it was landing on an active snowmobile trail, despite lawyers for Smith claiming that army documents “showed pretty clearly that the crew knew that they were landing right before or right after an active snowmobile trail.”

However, an investigation from the U.S. Army concluded the crew “wasn’t aware” the landing spot was an active trail. They also queried whether lighting the chopper with “glow stick-like devices” would have made a difference. What’s more, they attempted to pass the blame off onto Smith, arguing that he was “driving his sled more than 65 mph at the time the crash.”

Smith is now hopeful that he’ll be able to win the case, the damages from which will help pay for a procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital that could improve movement in his left arm, reports NBC News.

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