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Franklin County Pays Almost $150K To Pilot Of Fatal Chopper Crash

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FRANKLINTON, N.C. — A helicopter pilot under investigation for possible manslaughter charges and accused of misleading government leaders about the safety of a helicopter has reached almost a $150,000 settlement with Franklin County.

County commissioners decided to pay pilot Ben Barrick for his salary and injuries he claims he suffered as a result of a May 2004 helicopter crash that killed Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Ted Horton.

Barrick was flying the chopper in Louisburg on a mission for the county sheriff's department when it went down, as a result of tailboom failure related to inadequate maintenance, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

Investigations also revealed that Barrick didn't have a license to fly the machine, leased as a result of a secret deal involving Barrick and Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones.

Still, Franklin County Commissioner Dr. Raymond Stone said he and other county commissioners felt legally compelled to pay Barrick's worker's compensation.

Without a public vote, they settled the embattled pilot's salary and injury claims for $147,000, even though District Attorney Sam Currin predicts Barrick will be indicted for involuntary manslaughter charges by the spring.

"That action is quite separate and apart from the medical and the workman's comp responsibilities of the county," Stone said.

Stone said he is thankful the county's obligation in the matter is over and just hopes justice eventually catches up to Barrick.

"He left the county with an injury and with a pretty big financial liability," Stone said. "So, I can't help but feel negative toward him."

Commissioners actually settled with Barrick late last year, but did not release the details until the past few days after being pressed by local media.

WRAL tried contacting Barrick, who left North Carolina after the crash, but has been unable to reach him for comment.


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