SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – The family of a Fish and Wildlife Service detective who was killed in a helicopter crash claims that the Department of the Interior will not allow another employee to testify in a lawsuit because it would constitute “spending time as a public employee for private purposes.”
Chris Kitcheyan was conducting an aerial survey of the Green River in 2001 when the helicopter hit Moon Lake Electric Association’s unmarked power lines. The Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the crash a year later, and Kitcheyan “on five different occasions” gave the department “a narrative of the near-miss incident,” according to the federal complaint. Kitcheyan also “marked the exact location on a map.”
In 2006, Det. Kevin Orr died when the helicopter he was piloting hit the same unmarked lines that Kitcheyan described. Orr’s parents, widow and four young children sued the Fish and Wildlife Service and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior.
“Moon Lake now contends that Kitcheyan’s correspondence with the Department, including the transcribed interview and the map, is inadmissible hearsay,” the Orrs say. The Orrs sued Moon Lake for “failing to mark its most dangerous lines in the Uintah Basin,” and want to depose Kitcheyan.
But the governmental defendants claim that allowing Kitcheyan to testify “would result in him spending time as a public employee for private purposes” and that by allowing it, it “would be unable to conduct its official business unimpeded.”
Fish and Wildlife also claims it “would be unable to maintain impartiality in conducting its business.”
The Orrs originally requested one hour of testimony from Kitcheyan and were willing to “secure a court order limiting the time of deposition and the issues of inquiry.” Their request was denied. So they requested a half hour and said they were “‘willing to do it during Mr. Kitcheyan’s lunch break, in the morning before official business begins or after hours,’ or even on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday.”
The Orrs also “agreed to travel to any location and pay for all costs associated with the testimony.”
But their Touhy Request was denied a second time.
The Orrs say Kitcheyan is “the only person that can testify to the accuracy of his statements during the 2002 investigation” and call the denials “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with the law.”
The Orrs say that Kitcheyan and their late son are not the first to strike Moon River’s lines. In 1982, Chris Shute hit the lines with a helicopter while working for the U.S. Forest Service.
The Orrs ask the court to order the government to let Kitcheyan testify. They are represented by Joseph Steele with Steele & Biggs.