Local News

Liability Questions Arise In Fatal Copter Crash

Posted May 19, 2004 5:26 a.m. EDT

— There are questions about the ownership of a helicopter used by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office that was involved in a crash, kiling a deputy.

The TH-55 helicopter went down in a wooded area last Friday, killing Deputy Ted Horton. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the pilot, Deputy Ben Barrick, did not have a valid license to fly.

Sheriff Jerry Jones and his office are now referring all questions about the crash investigation to Franklin County Attorney Darnell Batton. Batton must sort through what the sheriff has described as a handshake deal to use a private helicopter without public liability.

WRAL found a closer look at FAA records point to confusion over ownership of the helicopter. While Barrick has said his nonprofit group, Netstar Air Rescue, owns the aircraft, the FAA lists the owner as "sale reported."

From April 2 to May 11, seven liens were reported on the aircraft. Citizens Bank, Netstar, Acorn Construction and Leslie P. White all claimed the helicopter as collateral.

WRAL was unable to contact Barrick. Since the sheriff said there was no written contract outlining a deal to use the helicopter, Franklin County could find itself in a legal mess.