Two former Carson Helicopters executives have been sentenced to U.S. prison for their role in the fatal 2008 crash of a firefighting S-61N.
Steven Metheny, Carson’s vice president at its Grants Pass, Ore. site at the time of the crash, was sentenced to 12.5 years by U.S. Chief District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Medford, Ore., June 16. Levi Phillips, Carson’s maintenance director at the time, received a 25-month sentence.
The Carson-modified Sikorsky helicopter crashed Aug. 5, 2008 on takeoff from a 6,000-foot helispot near Weaverville, Calif. while fighting the Iron Complex fire. The pilot-in-command, an inspector pilot and seven firefighters were killed. The copilot and three other firefighters were severely injured.
NTSB and U.S. Transportation Department inspector general investigators found weight and balance and aircraft performance charts had been falsified; those charts were contained in the company submission that won the U.S. Forest Service contract for the firefighting support services.
Metheny and Phillips pled guilty in 2014 and 2013, respectively, to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Metheny also pled guilty to making false statements in defrauding the Forest Service.
Mail and wire fraud are common charges in cases of falsified aircraft operations and maintenance records. Most aircraft records are transmitted electronically or by mail at some point, as are most government contract bids. This leaves culprits open to fraud charges. Each transmitted record can carry a separate criminal charge.