Widow of Czech billionaire files US lawsuit over helicopter crash

Renáta Kellnerová alleges that Petr Kellner had been alive after the crash and that the rescue response was too slow.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 04.04.2023 07:30:00 (updated on 28.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech businesswoman Renáta Kellnerová, the widow of Czechia’s formerly richest man Petr Kellner who tragically died in a helicopter accident in 2021, wants a new investigation into her husband’s death.

Kellner along with four others died almost exactly two years ago, on March 27, in a helicopter crash in the U.S. state of Alaska while heliskiing, ČTK reports. He was worth an estimated CZK 377 billion (USD 17.5 billion) at the time of his death. According to Forbes, that made him the 110th richest person in the world and Czechia's richest man.

Three hours for rescuers to arrive

According to previous court documents, Kellner initially survived the crash but died while waiting for rescuers, who took around three hours to attend to the wreckage. No one had been monitoring the flight, documents allege.

Kellnerová wants to investigate possible misconduct by aviation operator Soly Helicopters as well as possible failures by other entities involved in the rescue operation. She claims that Kellner’s injuries were survivable and that a swifter operation would have saved his life.

The widow filed the lawsuit on March 24, just days before the two-year deadline in the U.S. for filing civil lawsuits. Kellnerová wanted to wait before taking legal action till U.S. authorities issued their final report on the circumstances of the tragedy, but this is not yet ready.

Only one person survived the crash

Last year, the only surviving passenger on board the helicopter, Czech David Horváth, said that Kellner and one other person, Gregory Harms, had still been alive while waiting for paramedics. 

"According to the available testimonies, the rescue units were called to the scene of the crash only a few hours later, and it is therefore obvious that some persons must have made mistakes," a PPF spokesperson said last month. Kellner had been the majority shareholder of the investment group PPF.

Harms' family has previously sued Soloy Helicopters, claiming that the chopper’s pilot was too inexperienced and that the rescue response was overly delayed. 

Attorneys in the Harms case claimed that the American “ultimately died due to lack of flight tracking and required communications with the subject helicopter.” A settlement was reached between Harms’ family and Soloy Helicopters, but the details were kept confidential.

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