After five days of trial, a jury in Oregon’s Marion County Circuit Court ordered Winco Powerline Services to pay $14.6 million after two workers, dangling on ropes from a helicopter, fell over 100 feet to their deaths on November 7, 2017. The two men were California residents but were in Louisiana for the powerline project when the tragedy occurred.
Nicholas Gamalski, 27, and Travis Chiokai, 26, employees of Irby Construction, plunged over 100 feet to their deaths when the nylon rope that suspended them from a helicopter severed after it rubbed on a static line on an overhead electrical distribution system. Winco Powerline Services was the contractor used to transport workers and equipment for the powerline construction industry.
“This is a case of obvious gross negligence,” said Ven Johnson, of Ven Johnson Law, who co-represented Gamalski’s family with John Coletti of Portland-based Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys. “This nightmare could have been avoided had the Winco pilot followed his own company’s safety protocol and used a Kevlar covered rope that is less susceptible to abrasion.”
The jury awarded $3 million to Gamalski’s estate for the pain and suffering from the time the rope snapped to the time he died. Winco must also pay Gamalski’s parents, William and Karen Gamalski, $4 million for the loss of their son.
$7.6 million was awarded to Chiokai’s estate.
Gamalski’s family hired Detroit-based Ven Johnson Law to assist in the case as family members are from Michigan and familiar with the firm and its reputation.