Local News

Charges dropped in fatal helicopter crash

Posted July 21, 2008 4:21 p.m. EDT

— Prosecutors have dropped criminal charges against a helicopter pilot in a crash that killed a Franklin County deputy four years ago.

Ben Barrick was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the May 2004 crash that killed Deputy Ted Horton.

An investigation revealed that metal fatigue caused the tail boom to fail, resulting in the fatal crash. A National Transportation Safety Board investigator also concluded Barrick's inexperience as a pilot led to the crash.

Federal law prohibits the investigator from testifying about his conclusions or opinions about the crash, and Franklin County District Attorney Sam Currin said he didn't have enough evidence to proceed with the case against Barrick without that testimony.

Barrick still faces civil suits in the crash.

Officials have alleged that Barrick deceived the county, signing a secret deal with the former sheriff to put a faulty helicopter in service and burden Franklin County with liability.

The lease agreement called for a helicopter in excellent condition, and authorities said Barrick chose to fly it despite warnings that it hadn't been properly maintained.