New Information About Deadly Helicopter Crash May Lead To Criminal Charges
Posted May 31, 2005 7:49 a.m. EDT
FRANKLIN COUNTY, N.C. — New information about a deadly helicopter crash may lead to criminal charges.
A helicopter went down in Franklin County last year on a drug-finding mission. The crash killed Ted Horton, a deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, and provoked questions about responsibility and trust.
After the crash, county leaders learned Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones signed a secret deal to lease the helicopter.
County leaders also raised doubts about the integrity of the pilot Ben Barrick, who did not have a license, and the safety of his aircraft.
"There are substantial questions with regard to the airworthiness of the aircraft," Darnell Batton, Franklin County attorney, said in June 2004.
At the time, county commissioner Raymond Stone added: "If in fact they find that the craft was defective, that strengthens our case I think."
One year later, a report by the National Safety Transportation Board confirms that suspicion. Federal investigators determined corrosion on the tail boom support caused it to fracture during the flight. They also found no logbook entries for required inspections.
The report may prompt a criminal investigation of Barrick. In his contract with the sheriff's office, Barrick guaranteed a helicopter in "excellent flying condition."
The Franklin County attorney, however, doubts that the NTSB report will directly impact a lawsuit filed against the county.
A Tennessee bank wants $100,000 to cover a loan for the helicopter.
Franklin County leaders are trying to shield themselves from the lawsuit. They filed a counterclaim passing responsibility for the loan to Sheriff Jones.
As for Barrick, he has moved out of state. The county continues to pay him workers compensation each month.