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5 Marines died in ‘defective’ aircraft crash, families say. Boeing, others face lawsuit

A CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., approaches Wittman Regional Airport, Wis., during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, July 30, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

The families of five U.S. Marines who died in an Osprey crash during a training mission in Southern California say Boeing and two other aircraft manufacturers are responsible for their deaths.

On June 8, 2022, the Marines set out on a routine flight operation when a “catastrophic and unanticipated mechanical failure” caused the V-22 Osprey to crash in the desert in Glamis, according to the findings of a U.S. Marine Corps investigation.

The crash killed Capt. John J. Sax, 33, of Placer, California; Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, of Rockingham, New Hampshire; Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Illinois; Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyoming; and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, from Valencia, New Mexico.

The Marines’ loved ones say the manufacturers of the Osprey — Boeing, Bell Textron and Rolls-Royce — knew the aircraft was unsafe before their deaths, but they didn’t warn the U.S. military.

“The entire aircraft, was defective and unreasonably dangerous,” a new federal lawsuit filed by the men’s families says.

With flaws and defects, the Osprey didn’t meet government safety standards, according to a complaint filed May 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The widow of Sax, a Sacramento-area native who is the son of former Los Angeles Dodgers player Steve Sax, said in a statement that the families want “accountability, answers, and change.”

“Our military members deserve equipment and aircraft free of failures, especially failures that can cause the loss of their lives,” Amber Sax, who is a plaintiff in the case, said. “I should have been growing old with my husband, our two children shouldn’t be growing up without their father.”

Alongside Amber Sax, the widows of Rasmuson and Carlson, and Strickland’s parents are suing Boeing, Bell and Rolls-Royce for negligence. They’re asking for a jury trial and seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Bell spokesman Jay Hernandez told McClatchy News on May 23 that the company “cannot comment on matters of litigation.”

Boeing and Rolls-Royce didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ requests for comment May 23.

“As we approach Memorial Day weekend, we cannot help but think of the families of our service members who have lost their lives, not in combat but in training exercises here at home,” Timothy Loranger, one of the attorneys representing the case of Wisner Baum LLP, said in a news release on the lawsuit.

No way to prevent the crash

The U.S. Marine Corps investigation revealed the Osprey’s “dual hard clutch engagement” caused the mechanical failure that resulted in the deadly crash, according to a statement on the findings released in July.

“It is clear from the investigation that there was no error on the part of the pilots and aircrew and nothing they could have done to anticipate or prevent this mishap,” the U.S. Marine Corps said.

“The investigation also found there was no maintenance error on the part of the team whose job it was to prepare the aircraft to fly on the day of the flight,” the statement continued.

The Marine Corps said it has addressed the aircraft’s clutch issue with the Osprey manufacturer since the accident.

However, when the report on the crash was released, Col. Brian Taylor told The Associated Press that the “root cause of the clutch failure” is still unknown.

Taylor told the news outlet adjustments to the aircraft’s equipment has reduced the chance of the fatal systems failure from happening again “by 99%, but have not eliminated it.”

This still makes Amber Sax and the families of the other Marines who died with her husband fearful.

“A prevention rate can’t be guaranteed when the root cause hasn’t been found,” she said in her statement.

In September, the Justice Department announced Boeing agreed to pay $8.1 million to settle accusations that it failed to meet manufacturing standards in connection with the V-22 Osprey in violation of the False Claims Act.

The accusations were made by three Boeing whistleblowers who worked at the company’s facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, according to a Sept. 28 news release.

The lawsuit filed by the Marines’ loved ones says the Osprey “continues to fail to meet the government’s safety and reliability specifications and requirements” and is unsafe.

More fatal Osprey crashes

On Nov. 29, eight Airmen were killed when a CV-22 Osprey aircraft crashed off of Yakushima Island in Japan, according to the U.S. Air Force.

The CV-22 Osprey is a “variant” of the V-22 Osprey that killed the five Marines in June 2022.

A U.S. Defense official told The Associated Press that a mechanical failure caused the crash in Japan, the outlet reported in February.

In August, a V-22 Osprey crashed in Australia during a training exercise, and three Marines died, the Air Force Times reported.

“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,” Baum said in the release.

Amber Sax said “finding the root cause of these mechanical failures and pressing for full transparency for our military, service members, and their families is only part of our advocacy.”

“We want assurance that these components have been successfully redesigned, tested, and rendered safe. The importance of addressing this cannot be overstated — it is not just about fixing a machine, but about ensuring that no other family has to endure this loss again,” she said.


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