Local News

Franklin County Again Takes Issue With Pilot's Post-Crash Actions

Posted August 6, 2004

— Nearly three months ago, a deadly helicopter crash in Franklin County sparked questions over liability, safety and deception.

Friday, the pilot's credibility again was under attack.

Pilot Ben Barrick left Louisburg months ago. But he still is a Franklin County deputy collecting workman's compensation. When he recently tried to get another job, it stirred up his already-strained relationship with the county.

When the helicopter crash killed deputy Ted Horton, sadness consumed Franklin County. That emotion soon combined with frustration.

It turned out the pilot, Barrick, did not have Federal Aviation Administration certification. He also had worked out a secret deal with the sheriff, laying liability on the county. Furthermore, questions surfaced about whether Barrick's helicopter was safe to fly.

Then Barrick left town and sent a letter demanding that Franklin County pay him nearly $100,000 for the mangled aircraft.

County leaders said no.

"It would have been comical had it not been so tragic," County Commissioner Raymond Stone said.

Stone's bewilderment peaked again when he learned Barrick was named to teach a helicopter rescue class this weekend at Blue Ridge Community College in the western part of the state.

"I just could not believe it," Stone said.

When college leaders learned about the pilot's past, they cancelled the class before it started.

Since the crash, Barrick has received $387 a week in workmen's compensation. Because of his near-involvement in the training seminar, local leaders wonder if he deserves it.

"That would certainly raise a red flag," Stone said, "and I hope it does. "If the man is able to work, then he should not be drawing workmen's compensation."

The Franklin County attorney told WRAL that a workman's compensation administrator is investigating Barrick's case.

At the same time, the FAA is reviewing questions over his pilot's license and aircraft certification.

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