Family Reacts To Carson Helicopter Employee Guilty Plea

, Written by Natalie Hurd, Posted: Tue, September 24 2013 at 11:10 PM, Updated: Tue, September 24 2013 at 11:21 PM

For a proud and loving father, four years and now one person admitting guilt, does very little to ease the pain of losing a son. "You know the grief's there it's deep and it always going to be there but it's what can we do about it" said Steele.

Paul Steele's son David was just 19 back in August of 2008. An Ashland High School graduate, earning money for college as a wild land fire fighter, when the Sikorsky helicopter he was in went down in California's Trinity National Forest.

He and eight others died.

In January of this year, two of Carson Helicopter's employees were indicted on 22 federal charges and on Monday former maintenance operator Levi Phillips plead guilty to one count of fraud saying he and his boss Steven Methany submitted contract proposals to the U.S. Forest service falsifying weight and balance charts and received $20-million in contract's because of it.

Steele said "So they lie and they cheat and to get money and they don't think of the consequences and the people's lives at risk." Steele says the helicopter that went down with his son inside was 1,400 pounds overweight.

As part of Monday's plea deal Phillips will testify when Methany appears in court.

"I don't feel good about him saying I'm guilty. There's no honor in that" said Steele.

Steele is now just one of the victim's families asking for better oversight and fair compensation for wild land fire fighters.

He also questions how much Carson's higher-ups knew about their business transactions in 2008, a business still operating out of Pennsylvania. "They killed my son, their actions were directly involved in that. I think who would want to do business with a company that does that kind of thing" said Steele.

Carson offered no comment Tuesday night, citing the on-going court proceedings. Phillips' defense attorney did not return our phone calls.

The trial is scheduled for march.

Phillips faces up to 20 years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

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About the Author

Natalie Hurd

Natalie Hurd anchors NBC5 News at 6pm and 11pm. She first joined the NBC5 News team as an intern in 2005. After earning a Journalism degree from the University of Oregon, Natalie returned to NBC5 News as a reporter and weekend anchor.

Three years later, she moved to Omaha, Nebraska to report for KETV. Natalie’s breaking news coverage of a tornado helped win her station the national Edward R. Murrow award, one of the most prestigious honors in journalism.

Natalie is thrilled to be home again where she enjoys spending time with her mom and brothers in Ashland and her husband, Bobby and their dog, Ziggy.

Catch Natalie co-anchoring with Craig Smullin weekdays on NBC 5 News at 6pm.

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