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Flight Student Says Negligence Led to Crash

(CN) - A flight instructor was video-chatting on his cellphone when the helicopter he and a student were flying in went into a rapidly descending spiral and crash, leaving the teacher dead and the student with grave injuries, a lawsuit claims.

In a lawsuit filed in the Palm Beach County circuit court, Jonathan Desouza says he went to the Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lake Worth, Fla., to take a flying lesson with Luis Aviles of Palm Beach Helicopters.

Beginning at about 9 a.m., Desouza says, he and Aviles took off in a 1996 Robinson Helicopter and began practicing approaches and emergency procedures following a simulated engine failure.

Desouza claims that during the flight, Aviles acted in a grossly negligent manner by using the "FaceTime" app on his cellphone to make a video call. During the call, the helicopter suddenly went into autorotation -- a descending maneuver during which the engine is disengaged from the main rotor and driven solely by the upward flow of air through the rotor.

If responded to properly, autorotation allows a pilot to land safely even in the event of engine failure. But Desouza says Aviles failed to respond properly, and the small, two-seat copter crashed violently into the ground.

"As a result of this crash, Defendant Aviles was killed and Mr. Desouza sustained serious and permanent injuries including but not limited to a fractured spine, fractured coccyx, and fractured ribs," the complaint says.

Desouza seeks unspecified damages from the flight school and Aviles' estate, on multiple claims of negligence and vicarious liability.

He is represented by Robert Baker of Baker & Zimmerman P.A. of Parkland, Florida.

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