By CAREY JOHNSON, Times Staff
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Attorneys for the widow of a deputy who was killed in a 2004 helicopter
crash filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday against a dozen defendants,
including Franklin County, Sheriff Jerry Jones and former deputy Ben Barrick.
Barrick was at the helm of the two-seater helicopter on May 14 when it
crashed into a wooded field in Louisburg, killing Dep. Ted Horton.
Barrick sustained injuries to his back, prompting the county to make a
$147,000 worker’s compensation settlement.
Horton’s widow, Ann Greene has declined comment, but through one of her
attorneys, Hill Allen, she said she has been dismayed with the cover-up
surrounding the incident.
“She’s grieving and continuing to struggle with this,” Allen said. “Part of
what’s made the struggle harder is that new developments emerge and it
becomes clear that the true facts and circumstances have not been fully
“If people had stepped up or taken responsibility or spoken honestly, her
process of grieving for a man she loves would have been easier.”
Since the helicopter crash, its circumstances have been revealed through a
county investigation, and probes by both the Federal Aviation Administration
and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Together and separately, the investigations revealed that:
Barrick did not have a
pilot’s license nor adequate mechanics ability
Barrick was made aware that
the helicopter was deemed not worthy for flight
No efforts were made to
properly maintain the craft
No significant efforts were
made by any party to ground the flight (although, county officials did ask
Jones to discontinue any flights)
There was no insurance on the
Poor maintenance eroded the
craft’s ability to fly and caused the crash
Barrick and Jones entered
into a secret agreement obligating the county to pay for the helicopter and
cover its liability
The lawsuit spreads responsibility for those shortcomings among Barrick and
family members and fellow NETSTAR associates Tom Barrick, Brad Barrick and
Robert Twomey and Scott Whaley, and NETSTAR, itself, which stands for
Northeast Tennessee Search & Tactical Air Response.
Jones is named in the suit in his official and individual capacity, as well
as his bonding company. Franklin County is named in the suit, along with
Southeastern Helicopters, where the craft was housed, one mechanic, Keith
Svadba and Thomas Jones, who granted Barrick and NETSTAR an ownership
interest to operate the helicopter in North Carolina.
Since the crash occurred, A Tennessee bank settled a lawsuit with Jones
after making allegations that Jones and Barrick conspired to cheat the
financial institution out of nearly $82,000 which was used to bring the
helicopter to Franklin County in the spring of 2004.
The county filed a cross-claim lawsuit against Jones in an effort to hold
him financially responsible if it was determined that his negligence somehow
obligated the county to pay damages in the bank case.
Once the case was removed from the case and the matter was resolved, the
county dropped its cross-claim.
“Ever since this tragedy occurred, there have been claims, counter claims
accusations and cross accusations,” said Jim Crouse, Greene’s second
attorney who focuses in the field of aviation negligence.
“No one has stepped forward to say we’re responsible or we bear some
responsibility,” he said. “We want to make sure the right thing is done in
“We’ve brought everyone together in one courthouse in one lawsuit.”
Crouse said he understands the search for answers concerns Greene and the
public at large.
In as much as information benefits Greene and the public, Crouse said the
matter would be open for public consumption.
When Greene’s interests and the public’s interest diverge, attorneys would
pledge allegiance to their client.
“We all feel like the public needs to know what happened,” he said. “Our
first and foremost goal is to represent Ann Greene.
“As far as the public’s interest and hers, frankly, I see those interests as
very much aligned.”
The lawsuit has yet to identify a compensatory and punitive damage amount.
“We will get an economist and evaluate the monetary claim that will be
made,” Crouse said. The lawsuit speaks to the loss earnings Horton could
receive and the loss his life has weighed on Greene.
“We’re a long ways from talking about the economic part of this,” Crouse
said. “There is a lot to sort out for who is responsible for this.
“We’re not focused at all on any eventual financial compensation.”
And Barrick is not just the subject of this new civil suit. He was indicted
and arrested in March on charges of involuntary manslaughter associated with
Barrick is next slated to appear in Franklin County Superior Court on the
criminal charge on May 24.
Crouse said he expects the civil matter to take some time.
“The more lawyers and parties involved, the more complicated it becomes,” he
said. “There was really no way to make it simpler.
“We wanted to include everyone.”