The family of an Alabama pilot who crashed and died in Louisiana last month has sued the helicopter maker in Montgomery federal court.

Pilot Thomas Ballenger of Eufaula died along with seven other people in a helicopter crash in southern Louisiana Jan. 4 on the way to a Shell Oil Co. drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. His wife sued chopper maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. last week in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, seeking unspecified damages.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Ballenger family by Montgomery’s Beasley Allen Law Firm, says the “defective condition” of the S-76C chopper caused the crash.

“All we know now is the weather was good and both engines failed when the helicopter was on autopilot,” said Greg Allen, of the law firm. “We are still investigating.”

Attempts to reach officials with Connecticut-based Sikorsky weren’t successful. The National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t publicly identified a cause of the crash.

The helicopter was carrying workers to a Shell Oil Co. platform when it crashed minutes after takeoff. One passenger survived.

The case was filed in the same judicial district as a big Sikorsky manufacturing plant. The company makes and repairs Black Hawk military helicopters in Troy, a city about 50 miles south of Montgomery, employing about 600 people there.

Allen, the lawyer on the case, said Shell Oil has grounded its fleet of Sikorskys pending an investigation of the accident.

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