Jicarilla Apache Tribe, New Mexico


Two tribal employees injured in a 1998 helicopter crash have sued the Colorado company that maintained the aircraft. Helicopter pilot Harvey Prather Jr. and electrician Wesley L. Vigil have racked up $26,000 in medical expenses since the March 19, 1998, crash. Court papers indicate the pair "will continue to suffer great pain of body and mind.'' The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, requests unspecified compensation for damages. Richard Dick, president of High Country Helicopters, declined to comment. The tribal helicopter went down shortly after takeoff from Archuleta Mesa just north of Dulce. Vigil had been working on a transmission antenna on top of the mesa. The helicopter was at least 80 feet off the ground before it crashed. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found the helicopter engine had switched to idle speed during flight after a pressure line became detached from the engine's fuel controller. The Montrose, Colo., helicopter firm performed its last annual maintenance inspection on the helicopter without painting a nut on the pressure line to ensure it was fastened property, the NTSB report said. However, it also said High County may not have been the only one working on the aircraft. The investigation found the tribe had changed navigation light bulbs on the Bell OH-58D helicopter.