The widow of a Tampa man killed in a 2015 helicopter crash is suing her husband’s employer for failing to properly review the Nicaraguan company contracted for the chopper ride.
James Horrisberger Sr., 62, was killed along with three others in a helicopter crash Nov. 17, 2015.
His wife, Susan Horrisberger, filed suit Oct. 13 against Tampa Juice, a processing firm located in Hillsborough County, for negligent selection, employment, and supervision of the contractor. She is asking for more than $75,000 in damages, which include funeral costs, loss of companionship, and mental pain.
According to the suit, the deaths could have been avoided if Tampa Juice investigated the contractor before selecting the company.
Horrisberger was in Nicaragua and working for Tampa Juice at the time of the incident. The suit claims Horrisberger, along with co-worker Phil Tope, went to Nicaragua to examine orange groves “for the purpose of planning the expected size of the 2015-2016 fruit crop.”
To do this, a helicopter ride was arranged by Tampa Juice. The company planned and scheduled the trip for employees.
When selecting a helicopter chartering company, Tampa Juice neglected to research the business. Had they examined the firm, the suit claims they would have known the helicopter used to transport Horrisberger and the others was involved in a crash Feb. 14, 2014.
The morning of the accident, the pilot prepared the helicopter for departure from San Carlos to Managua, Nicaragua. However, the pilot unsuccessfully filed a Visual Flight Rules (VFR), a set of regulations which include an acknowledgment that weather conditions are mostly clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
At around 6 a.m., the weather was foggy with little visibility. After ascent, witnesses claim they almost immediately lost sight of the helicopter. Moments later they heard a loud impact.
The helicopter crashed into the San Juan River, killing all four inside.
Horrisberger’s estate is in Hillsborough County and his wife is the designated personal representative.
Horrisberger left behind his wife had three children. Tope was married with six children.
Tampa Juice, which has yet to respond to the claims, is located on Barker Road in southeast Tampa.