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Wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Galloway nurse killed in medical helicopter crash

Pilot Jennifer Topper and flight nurses Bradley Haynes and Rachel Cunningham were killed in the crash on January 29, 2019.
Credit: Submitted photos
Jennifer Topper (left), Bradley Haynes (center) and Rachel Cunningham (right)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a Galloway nurse, Rachel Cunningham, who was among three killed in a 2019 medical helicopter crash in Vinton County.

Cunningham, pilot Jennifer Topper and flight nurse Bradley Haynes were killed in the crash on January 29, 2019.

The Survival Flight helicopter was traveling from Mount Carmel Grove City hospital to Holzer Meigs hospital in Pomeroy for a patient transfer back to Columbus.

The lawsuit alleges that Viking Aviation, which owns Survival Flight, accepted the flight without looking at the weather risk.

The lawsuit also claims Cunningham reported "dangerous culture and deficient safety issues" to Viking Aviation about a month before the crash.

Viking Aviation is accused of "negligence, recklessness, willful and wanton conduct" in the lawsuit, which was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Holzer Health System is also accused of negligence for reportedly not letting Viking Aviation know the flight was rejected by two other companies due to the weather.

The lawsuit accuses Holzer Health System of "helicopter shopping" to try and find a company that would take the flight after it was already declined by another company due to weather.

Mount Carmel Health System is also named in the suit for its "liability as part of the joint venture or partnership" with Viking Aviation.

The NTSB determined last year that the crash was caused by Survival Flight's “inadequate management of safety" and the pilot left without a thorough check of the weather.

Shortly after 7 a.m. on the day of the crash, Ohio State Highway Patrol was notified by Survival Flight it lost communication with the helicopter.

The NTSB said the helicopter hit two bands of snow showers. The pilot then lost altitude and hit some trees.

The wreckage of the helicopter was found east of State Route 278 and south of King Hollow Trail in Vinton County.

When asked for a statement in response to the lawsuit filed this week, Ryan Stubenrauch, a spokesperson for Survival Flight wrote, "Two years ago, a terrible tragedy took the lives of three brave people who’d dedicated themselves to saving the lives of others and Survival Flight will always mourn their loss. Our company has always made safety the top priority and we continue to learn, improve, and adapt in order to better serve our communities and save lives.”

A spokesperson for Mount Carmel wrote in an e-mailed statement, "We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of the flight crew. Out of respect for those involved, we cannot comment further at this time."