Snowmobiler Suing the Government for $9.5 Million After Crashing Into a Parked Black Hawk Helicopter

( — A snowmobiler crashed into a Black Hawk helicopter in 2019 and has been suing the federal government for almost five years due to the substantial impact the crash had on his life. According to Jeff Smith, the snowmobile driver, the government acted negligently and indirectly caused the devastating accident.

Smith underwent extensive surgery and required a years-long recovery process, ultimately resulting in Smith losing his motor function in one of his arms. Smith is suing the United States government for $9.5 million in damages.

Smith claims he’s in a worse physical state than before the crash, despite the 5-year-long recovery process and numerous medical procedures. Smith’s attorneys said the military personnel who operated the Black Hawk helicopter negligently parked the hard-to-see aircraft on a field frequently used by snowmobilers. Smith’s legal team also filed a lawsuit against the airfield’s owner because they allegedly provided local snowmobilers and aircraft operators access to the airport. Smith settled with the airfield’s owners, Albert Farms, for an unknown amount.

Among the allegations from Smith’s team is the accusation that the Black Hawk helicopter’s crew didn’t take adequate precautions to prevent injury to snowmobilers. Smith said that by leaving the helicopter without lights or other identifying markers, the aircraft’s crew caused his devastating accident. Smith’s legal team also referenced how the airfield hasn’t hosted aircraft in decades and the fact that the Black Hawk helicopter is the first military aircraft to land in the area.

According to Douglas Desjardins, Smith’s legal representative, the government knew the airfield’s status as a commonly used snowmobile track but failed to protect private citizens using the area. Desjardins then discussed how the military performed an investigation following Smith’s crash, which indicated the Army knew that private citizens were in the area during the crash. Despite Smith and Desjardins’ claims against the government, the defense has attempted to remove the case due to a policy that protects the government from civil actions arising from injuries.

The military released a report following the crash, in which army officials said the crew didn’t act negligently by landing the helicopter on the airfield. Although Smith’s legal argument primarily accuses the government of acting negligently, the defense could shift the blame to Smith due to him admitting to drinking the day of the crash. After visiting his family and having a drink, Smith crashed into the helicopter, resulting in his injuries. Smith’s legal team finished closing arguments recently, and the court will likely determine the lawsuit’s outcome within the next few months.

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