MEDFORD, N.J. (CN) – Suing the promoters that booked country duo Montgomery Gentry for an air show in rural New Jersey, the widow of Troy Lee Gentry says her husband’s fatal helicopter ride should have stayed grounded.
Angela Gentry filed the Feb. 20 complaint in Burlington County Superior Court less than a week after she brought strict liability and warranty claims against Sikorsky Aircraft and Keystone Helicopter Corps.
The Wolk Law Firm is representing Gentry in both suits, joined by Sander Friedman of West Berlin, N.J., in the latest case.
While the first suit took on the manufacturers of the helicopter, the second seeks liability from the four entities that let 50-year-old Gentry take flight.
It says Gentry was preparing for his concert at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford when an employee of Herlihy Helicopters offered him a sightseeing tour of the area.
“Always eager to please his fans and without any knowledge of the age, condition, or maintenance history of the helicopter, Gentry agreed,” the complaint states.
Gentry’s widow says the flight was doomed at takeoff: When pilot James Robinson radioed that the throttle was stuck in the maximum-power position, Herlihy employees on the ground recommended that he shut down the engine and perform an autorotation — in which the rotor blades free-wheel separate from the engine input — to land at the airport runway.
Robinson brought the helicopter up to 950 feet and shut down the engine, but the rotors failed to speed up for a successful autorotation, and the helicopter “fell like a brick,” according to the complaint.
The ensuing crash killed Gentry and Robinson.
Gentry’s widow notes that Herlihy replaced the throttle cable on the aircraft a year earlier, but obtained the equipment from McFarlane Aviation Products.
In addition to accusing McFarlane of fraud — saying its products were defectively designed and unsafe — Gentry’s widow says the concert organizers were clearly negligent.
The Flying W had a duty “to protect invitees from unwanted, unsafe and unsolicited offers for helicopter rides which were flown by pilots not capable of operating their safety,” the complaint states.
It also should have informed Gentry “not to fly either with its young pilots or in its equipment, or prevented him from doing so.”
As for the Flying W’s Cave Holdings and promoter Oler Productions — which contracted to book Montgomery Gentry — Gentry’s widow says their failure to stop the fatal flight amounts to a breach of contract.
Oler’s breach stems from its “fail[ure] to afford security to prevent the unauthorized solicitation of Troy Lee Gentry for a helicopter ride where neither the operator nor the pilot were properly vetted,” the complaint states.
Gentry’s widow says her husband “had every reason to believe that the operator and the pilot had been vetted by Oler Productions as required by the contract.”
A representative for Herlihy Helicopters has not returned a voicemail seeking comment. The complaint says the company has been under “intense FAA surveillance.”
The Federal Aviation Administration listed an incident report for Herlihy Helicopters stemming from a nonfatal crash due to engine problems in 2013.
Kentucky-baed Montgomery Gentry rose to the top of several country music charts in 2005 with the song “Something to Be Proud Of.”
Gentry had been living in Tennessee with his wife and two daughters before the fatal crash.