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COPTER PILOT'S FAMILY SUES OVER '94 CRASH

Relatives of a Bountiful pilot killed a year ago when his helicopter crashed into the Great Salt Lake have sued the manufacturers of the helicopter, claiming it was defective.

Jerry L. Bingham, 50, had dropped off a film crew on Antelope Island and departed about 3:45 p.m. on July 24, 1994, when he crashed into the lake.The wrongful death lawsuit, filed last week in 2nd District Court in Farmington, lists Texas-based Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. as the defendant.

Bingham's widow, Linda Bingham and their three children are seeking unspecified damages, including compensation for medical and burial expenses and for the loss of support from Bingham's earnings.

They claim Bell Helicopter knew the model 206B Jet Ranger helicopter it sold to Bingham's employer, Classic Helicopter in Woods Cross, was defective and dangerous.

James L. Burt, Bell's chief attorney for product integrity, said he has not had a chance to review the lawsuit. But he said he believes the helicopter Bingham was flying was 14 years old.

"It is improbable that a 14-year-old helicopter would have crashed because of some inherent defect in its design or manufacture," he said.

Bingham was chief pilot for Classic Helicopter, also known as Helicopter Services, a private charter operator, and was flying back alone in clear weather to Skypark Airport in Woods Cross when he crashed into the lake.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the crash and in May listed its probable cause as "undetermined." A report states the helicopter was flying at 100 to 200 feet above water level when it "suddenly disappeared for an undetermined reason."