Mysterious Crash In Swamps Southeast Of Lake Charles

Investigators hope that a data recording device similar to the ones in most cars and trucks will yield clues about a helicopter crash in Iberia Parish.

Authorities immediately became concerned when the Gulf Coast Helicopters aircraft, which was surveying pipeline in the area, did not arrive at a scheduled refueling stop in Patterson. The Civil Air Patrol began combing the area shortly thereafter; by evening, several other agencies, including the Coast Guard and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, had joined the search. Rescuers soon found the wreckage of the helicopter in the Atchafalaya Basin, and removed the lifeless body of the 29-year-old pilot.

The pilot’s name was not released and no one else was on board.

Gathering Electronic Evidence

For decades, crash investigators have relied on the “black boxes” in commercial aircraft for information about the causes of these crashes. Many people do not know that about 90 percent of the passenger cars and trucks on the road today have similar devices. When they first appeared, Event Data Recorders did little more than record seat belt use and airbag deployment, but today’s EDRs can do much more. Specifications vary according to the vehicle’s make, model, and year, but in most cases, Event Data Recorders measure:

  • Velocity,
  • RPM,
  • Steering angle,
  • Brake application, and
  • Other critical performance data.

Most EDRs store about seven seconds of data on a rolling basis.

Using Electronic Evidence

One of the advantages of electronic evidence is that it is virtually infallible. If witnesses testify that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was speeding, the insurance company’s lawyer can cross-examine them and possibly poke holes in their stories, but electronic evidence can only be challenged by attacking the device’s reliability.

Needless to say, electronic evidence is only useful if it is available. Most insurance companies destroy totaled vehicles within a few days of the crash, which means no more Event Data Recorder. To preserve this evidence, attorneys send official letters which notify the vehicle’s owner and/or custodian that a lawsuit may be filed and creates a duty for this person or entity to preserve all evidence, including the event data recorder. Louisiana is one of only ten states that recognize spoliation of evidence as a separate tort, meaning that if the insurance company ignores the letter and destroys the EDR or any other evidence, it may be liable for damages.

Electronic evidence, like the Event Data Recorder, is often an important building block in the plaintiff’s case for damages. For a free consultation with an assertive Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.