Families seek $20M from Chandler over chopper crash - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Families seek $20M from Chandler over chopper crash

May 23rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Families seek $20M from Chandler over chopper crash

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

The families of the two victims of a fatal helicopter crash at Chandler Municipal Airport last fall – one from Ahwatukee – have filed legal claims against the City of Chandler, asking for a combined $20 million because of their wrongful deaths.

One of the claims suggests trouble with the radio signal that morning might have played a role in the collision.

Trainee Michael Papendick, 34, of Ahwatukee and instructor Jessica Brandal, 27, of Kansas were killed when their helicopter collided with a single-engine airplane at 7:40 a.m. last Oct. 1.

Both aircraft were being used for training and the plane also had a student and instructor on board. According to the National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report, the collision took place at an altitude of about 1,400 feet.

The plane’s occupants did not know they struck a helicopter. In the NTSB report, they reported to the tower they heard a bang and thought they might have hit a large bird. Neither were injured and the plane suffered only minor damage.

The airplane’s pilot asked the tower if he had all three landing gear down. They confirmed he did before the plane landed.

The helicopter fell and became a fireball when it hit land.

The NTSB report says the airplane had been cleared for landing and the helicopter had been cleared for the option. That gives the helicopter pilot many options for landing, including touch-and-go, missed approach, low approach, stop and go, or a full stop landing.

Brandal’s parents, Michael and Jennifer, filed the claim on behalf of all her beneficiaries asking for a settlement of $5 million.

She was an Air Force veteran who had completed her training in Chandler earlier in 2021. Then, she was hired to be a flight instructor at the same school she trained at. It was in the Air Force that she met her boyfriend of six years, Shane Berger.

She had lived in a number of places, including Idaho, Las Vegas, and San Antonio.

Papendick’s wife, Rebecca, filed the claim on behalf of her husband and his beneficiaries. The couple had an 11-month old daughter at the time of the crash.

He was also a veteran, having served seven years in the U.S. Navy. The claim says they will settle for $15 million.

The Papendick claim says at the time of the accident the air traffic control operators were having trouble communicating with aircraft. At 6 a.m., an hour and 40 minutes before the crash, operators reported one frequency, 133.1, kept dropping and auto-selecting to other frequencies.

At 6:59 a.m. the air traffic control operator told the pilot of the airplane to switch to 133.1 frequency. At 7:31 a.m., nine minutes before the crash, he warned the airplane’s pilots that there were two helicopters in the area to keep an eye out for.

The claim says despite the warning, the airplane shorted its final approach pattern to overlap with the helicopters’ taxiway pattern.

The claim says that since the pilot assumed he had hit a large bird and never mentioned a helicopter, it is possible given the previous trouble with 133.1 frequency that the pilot never got the message to keep a watch for two helicopters in the taxiway.

A statement from the City of Chandler said officials have no comment in ongoing legal disputes.