May 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Families of Marines killed in 2022 Osprey crash sue Bell, Boeing, Rolls-Royce

A U.S. Marines Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey at New River Naval Base, North Carolina, in 2012.

A U.S. Marines Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey at New River Naval Base, North Carolina, in 2012. Photo: Stephen M Smith/Rolls-Royce PLC via Getty Images

The families of four Marines who died in a V-22 Osprey crash in California in June 2022 filed suit accusing Bell Textron, Boeing and Rolls-Royce of failing to address known mechanical failures with the aircraft.

Why it matters: Over 40 accidents involving Ospreys have caused more than 30 deaths since the aircraft entered service in 2007. The military temporarily grounded its fleet of Ospreys after a deadly incident late last year.

Driving the news: The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleges the companies failed to make "truthful statements to the government and to service members about the design, operation, and safety of V-22 Osprey aircraft."

  • Further, it said the aircraft "has failed and continues to fail to meet the government's safety and reliability specifications and requirements" and remains unsafe to fly in any configuration.

Catch up quick: The June 8, 2022, crash occurred near Glamis, California, during a training mission, killing five marines with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing:

  • Capt. John J. Sax, 33, from Placer, California; Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, from Rockingham, New Hampshire; Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, from Winnebago, Illinois; Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, from Johnson, Wyoming; and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, from Valencia, New Mexico.
  • The family of Losapio is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit

Zoom in: The Marines later determined there had been no error on the part of the pilots and aircrew in the June 2022 crash, saying there was nothing they could have done to anticipate or prevent the accident.

  • Instead, it said it was caused by a catastrophic mechanical failure known as "hard clutch engagement," which can cause a sudden catastrophic loss of control.

What they're saying: Amber Sax, the wife of Cpt. John Sax, said in a statement that the families' goal is not to see the Osprey removed from service.

  • "We seek accountability, answers, and change," she said. "It's to know that someday we will be able to say, 'their lives enabled others to live,' knowing what happened to them won't ever be repeated."
  • "For years Bell-Boeing and others have asserted that this aircraft and all of its systems are safe, yet the facts keep telling a different story," said Timothy Loranger, senior partner at Wisner Baum who is one of the lawyers representing the families.

A Boeing spokesperson said the company was unable to comment on pending litigation.

  • Bell and Rolls-Royce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Context: Ospreys are a unique hybrid between a propeller-driven airplane and a helicopter, allowing pilots to lift off vertically before tilting the vehicle's rotors 90 degrees for horizontal airplane-like flight.

  • The vehicle, which is used by the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, allows the military to transfer more troops faster and farther than helicopters while maintaining precise landing capabilities.
  • However, the system has been plagued by issues, including problems with reduced visibility, engine failure and faulty gearboxes.

The big picture: In September 2023, the Department of Justice announced Boeing would pay $8.1 Million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by failing to adhere to manufacturing specifications in the production of parts for Osprey.

  • House investigators last year also opened a probe into the safety and performance of the aircraft after the crash of an Air Force-operated Osprey off of the coast of Japan's southern Yakushima island that killed eight people.

Go deeper: Military halts use of generative AI

Read the lawsuit:

Go deeper