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Families of 2 veterans killed in chopper crash at Chandler airport file $20M notice against city

Legal claims filed suggest failure in radio frequency led to fatal chopper crash last October.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — The families of Air Force veteran and pilot Jessica Brandal and Navy veteran and student pilot Michael Papendick are planning to file legal claims against the City of Chandler for a combined $20 million dollars. 

Brandal and Papendick were killed last October when their helicopter collided with a single-engine plane at the Chandler Municipal Aiport.

The families are pointing to a failure in the radio frequency used by the air traffic control tower to notify the plane that Brandal and Papendick's chopper, along with another, were in the area when the plane was cleared to land.

“If someone thinks they are transmitting and they are not, certainly the message is not going to be received,” said Chad Verdaglio, President of Sawyer Aviation.   

The claim cites records showing that operators reported one frequency (133.1) was intermittently failing to transmit throughout the morning and using that frequency to communicate with the plane. 

According to the Daily Record of Facility Operation, the tower recorded frequency 133.1 kept dropping and auto-selected two other frequencies. At 6:59 a.m. (Arizona time) the control center instructed the plane to "change to frequency 133.1," and later to "use caution for two helicopters in the taxiway charlie pattern.” 

Verdaglio said pilots will not always acknowledge they have received an advisory from the control tower. "The tower could have said something and not found anything to be unusual with them not verbally acknowledging that on the radio." 

According to the NTSB preliminary report, tower officials cleared the plane for landing and gave the helicopter the option. When the plane turned for the runway, the pilot reported a loud bang and advised the tower they may have struck birds

However, records show there was no mention of either chopper. 

The City of Chandler tells 12 News it does not comment on pending legal claims. 

The lawyer representing the Brandal family tells 12 News they have no comment at this time.

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