The families of four Marines killed in an April 3, 2018 CH-53 crash in El Centro, California, filled a lawsuit against two companies they allege provided a faulty part that led to the deadly crash.
The lawsuit, filed in Pennsylvania State Court, alleges Kampi Components Co., Inc. and Diamond Rubber Products Co. supplied a faulty valve button that led to the crash.
According to David S. Casey Jr, a lawyer representing two of the families, the lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, but no damages have been specified.
The lawsuit alleges that a post-crash investigation faulted the crash on “the use and installation of a nonconforming bypass valve button which was defectively designed, sold, supplied and manufactured with materials that were non-compliant with the engineering design specifications" for the U.S. military.
Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, Capt. Samuel D. Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley, Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad, were killed when the CH-53 Super Stallion they were operating crashed after leaving the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
The two pilots, Schultz and Phillips, and aircrew members, Holley and Conrad, were assigned to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based out of the air station in Miramar, California.
According to a court document, the families of four Marines who perished in the crash allege a faulty valve button caused the CH-53 to go into a “hydraulic lock” precipitating a loss of flight control.
“When this condition occurs, the pilots can do nothing to bring the subject helicopter back under control and are blameless in this crash,” the court document reads.
The lawsuit alleges the faulty valve supplied by Diamond Rubber and Kampi was made of a material not in “compliance with and non-conforming to the engineering design specifications required by the military.”
The faulty valve was allegedly found to be made from a substance that is incompatible with hydraulic fluid known as Ethylene Propylene Di Monomer, according to the court document.
“The EPDM “button” material degraded after being exposed to hydraulic fluid causing a blockage in the hydraulic system resulting in a “hydraulic lock” condition, causing the flight control system from the subject helicopter to become uncontrollable, unresponsive and/or inoperative leading to the crash,” the court filing reads.
Following discovery of the faulty valve, a fleetwide message called for a replacement of the part across the fleet, according to the court filing.
Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that before being awarded a contract to provide parts and services to the Corps’ fleet of CH-53s, the two companies would have had to provide certifications and testing to the government to ensure the products adhered to outlined military specifications known as First Article and Conformance Inspection.
The “non-compliant” EPDM material should have resulted in a failed First Article and Conformance Inspection verification test, the filing reads.
“Upon information and belief, Defendant KAMPI and Defendant DIAMOND, jointly and severally, by providing false, fraudulent and intentionally and deliberately misleading First Article and Conformance Inspection test reports, certifications and/or representations acted willfully and wantonly,” the court document reads.
Officials from Kampi Components and Diamond Rubber did not respond to requests for comment.
Marine Corps Times also reached out to the Marine Corps regarding the fleetwide message related to the alleged faulty valve. The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.