Families of Marines killed in 2022 Osprey helicopter crash sue manufacturers

FILE -In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Nicholas Hawkins, signals an MV-22 Osprey to land on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea on May 17, 2019. When the U.S. military took the extraordinary step of grounding its fleet of V-22 Ospreys this week, it wasn't reacting just to the recent deadly crash of the aircraft off the coast of Japan. The aircraft has had a long list of problems in its short history. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/U.S. Navy via AP)
An MV-22 Osprey is signaled to land on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea in 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley / Associated Press)

The families of five Marines who were killed when their V-22 Osprey helicopter crashed during a 2022 training exercise in Imperial County have sued the designers and manufacturers of the aircraft, alleging deceptive practices and systemic failures.

Bell Textron, Boeing and Rolls Royce failed to make “truthful statements to the government and to service members about the design, operation, and safety of V-22 Osprey aircraft,” the complaint alleges.

A military investigation of the crash concluded that pilots and maintenance crews were not at fault. The report said that a clutch disengaged and then reengaged, damaging the aircraft's transmission and causing engine failure.

“Bell-Boeing has been aware of hard clutch engagement problems in the V-22 Ospreys since 2010,” said Timothy Loranger, a Marine Corps veteran and lawyer representing the families of those killed in the accident. “But here we are more than a dozen years later, and that knowledge hasn’t resulted in a solution, and the malfunction has continued to cost lives.”

Read more: U.S. and Japanese forces to resume Osprey flights in Japan following fatal crash

The Marines killed in the crash were Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Ill., a Tiltrotor crew chief; Capt. Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, of Rockingham, N.H., an MV-22B pilot; Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyo., a Tiltrotor crew chief; Capt. John J. Sax, 33, of Placer, Calif., an MV-22B pilot; and Lance Cpl. Evan A. Strickland, 19, of Valencia, N.M., a Tiltrotor crew chief. They were assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364, under the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The lawsuit claims that six more similar incidents have occurred since the June 2022 crash.

The Osprey has had a troubled recent history, including two fatal accidents last year: a crash in Australia which left three service members dead, and another in Japan which killed eight.

The U.S. military grounded its Osprey fleet in late 2023 after the crash in Japan and Congress launched an investigation into the Osprey program shortly thereafter.

In March 2024, U.S. and Japanese forces resumed Osprey flights after completing maintenance and training programs.

Read more: Congress launches investigation into Osprey program after deadly crash in Japan

Boeing has been in hot water over aircraft malfunctions on commercial flights, and now also faces scrutiny as one of three manufacturing and design companies involved in the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Bell Textron declined to comment. Representatives for Boeing and Rolls Royce did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We want assurance that these components have been successfully redesigned, tested, and rendered safe," Amber Sax, the wife of Capt. John Sax, one of the deceased, said in a statement.

"The importance of addressing this cannot be overstated," she said. "It is not just about fixing a machine, but about ensuring that no other family has to endure this loss again.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.