- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Supreme Court has revived a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game after a helicopter crash that killed the pilot and two agency biologists.

In a 5-0 decision Friday, the high court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the father of the pilot, saying it’s possible that state workers were liable.

“I’m very happy and I’m still a little bit in shock about the Supreme Court decision,” the father, Perry Krinitt, of Laguna Niguel, California, said Tuesday. “Nothing is going to replace my son,” he said.

His attorney was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for comment, but Krinitt said the lawsuit seeking unspecified damages would move forward again in a northern Idaho court.

Krinitt filed the lawsuit after the 2010 crash in northern Idaho killed Perry J. Krinitt Jr., 43, of Belgrade, Montana. The crash also killed Larry Barrett, 47, and Danielle Schiff, 34, who were biologists planning to count salmon spawning nests in the Selway River.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a clipboard Schiff had inside the helicopter somehow fell out and hit the tail rotor, causing it to crash in the town of Kamiah.

The Hiller UH-12E helicopter had a three-abreast bench seat with the pilot in the center. Fish and Game had chartered the aircraft from Leading Edge Aviation, based in Clarkston, Washington.

The Idaho Supreme Court said the lower court erred in deciding it was unclear who had the clipboard before it went outside the cabin. Justices also said the lower court erred in saying that the clipboard’s hitting the tail rotor was an unforeseeable accident.

“In this case, the evidence was sufficient to show that the clipboard was under the exclusive control and management of the Defendants’ employee,” the court wrote. “Even if the door of the helicopter had accidently come open, there is nothing to indicate that Ms. Schiff could not have maintained control of the clipboard. A jury could conclude that the accident would not have happened but for her negligence.”

A witness on the ground reported the helicopter appeared to be operating normally until he heard a loud bang and saw the aircraft rotate with one of the doors open, followed by the crash.

Peter J. Johnson, an attorney based in Spokane, Washington, representing the Department of Fish and Game, didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday. Fish and Game officials also didn’t return a call.


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