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Justices reject jurisdiction in 'bizarre' fatal helicopter crash

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The family of a man killed by a falling helicopter that crashed in British Columbia will not have their case heard in Indiana where the helicopter engine was built, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Isaiah Omondi Otieno, 20, a Kenyan citizen and student at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C., was killed four years ago as he was mailing a letter to his parents in Kenya. A helicopter lost power overhead, crashing and killing Otieno in a crash the court described as bizarre.

Otieno’s family filed a wrongful death suit naming as a defendant Rolls-Royce, the successor to Indianapolis-based Allison Division of General Motors, which designed and built the engine for the 1974 Bell Helicopter. The family sued in Indianapolis, Justice Frank Sullivan wrote, “because they would only be entitled to nominal damages under British Columbia law.”

But Sullivan wrote that the Indiana court was not the most appropriate venue.

“Because we conclude that British Columbia provides an available and adequate forum under applicable law, and that the trial court did not otherwise abuse its discretion in dismissing the complaint on the ground of forum non conveniens, we affirm the trial court’s judgment,” Sullivan wrote in a unanimous opinion.

The Court of Appeals also had previously affirmed the Marion Superior Court dismissal. Honeywell International Inc., which designed engine components in Indiana, and Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Texas, also had been named as defendants in the suit.

 

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