New York Man Killed By His Own Remote Controlled Helicopter

article-2413231-1BA58512000005DC-248_634x802There is a tragic case out of New York City this week that could be the basis for a product liability action. Roman Pirozek Jr., 19, virtually decapitated himself with his own remote-controlled Trex 700 helicopter when it cut off a piece of his skull and slashed his throat.

Pirozek is the vice-president of a local hobby club and has posted YouTube videos of his exploits with his $1,500 helicopter. The six-pound RC helicopter has a blade span of 62 inches with a rotor that spins at more than 2,000 rpm.

His father witnessed the horrific scene.

From a torts perspective, the question is one of a design defect and whether the helicopter should be able to cause such injury. This is a toy that can be purchased by any individual without a license or a permit. That creates the high likelihood of “foreseeable misuse” – misuse of a product that must be considered in its design. The danger here is clearly not only to the user but to people in the area where these toys are used. It is not enough to warning, as appears on many ads for the Trex 700, that “Users must have a certain concept of security to operate the R/C helicopters.

Be sure to read and comply with related safety notes of instruction manual before flying.” The manual for the company states that it is the sole responsibility of the users to avoid damage or injuries, but that is not the way it is viewed from a product liability perspective.

If one of these helicopter can slash a throat and cut through a skull, the question is whether it can be sold as a toy. Pirozek and others use these toys in parks and open areas with pedestrians. I understand that most are very careful but obviously there will be a certain percentage of those who misuse the product or act recklessly.

Assumption of the risk clearly looms large in such a case. The strongest product case would be to a pedestrian. This was an experienced user who likely knew of the dangers. Yet, the company also knows of the stunts and dangerous manuevers common in the use of these toys as shown on YouTube. What do you think?

28 thoughts on “New York Man Killed By His Own Remote Controlled Helicopter”

  1. What OrneryScribble said! Toys are different than models.I bought my 12 year old nephew a toy copter for Christmas. The rotor blades were flexible, and the only real danger was if he ate some of the parts. Which IIRC the warnings advised against.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. I know several model flyers all belonging to a club here in town. They have their own park which they own and maintain and not one of them would take his/her model to a public park or fly it anywhere pedestrians or children congregate.

    I asked my neighbor, who belongs to the club, about this particular incident and he strongly disagreed with categorizing any models of this ilk as toys. He’s also a judge and doesn’t think an experienced user or family of same could carry a successful suit unless they could prove a malfunction at the design or build level and foreknowledge of such on the part of the manufacturer.

    BTW … these model flyers loooove what they do. Land prices in this town are quite high and they have been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for their park land and have, thus far, turned down every offer.

  3. Why are they calling this A Trex700 a toy?????? This is not a toy and we know they are not toys. As a matter of fact, I get upset when people call these models toys. Sometimes an accident is just that. An accident. I bet you 100% this guy knew how dangerous it could be and knew this could happen. These lawyers all need to be fed to the sharks if they sharks would eat them. But I bet they would not for fear of fish tooth liability.

  4. Raff,
    He apparently was at the club field, according to news reports. That means there were no pedestrians allowed in the flying area. The field is popular with model flyers, and is operated by the park service.

    Here is the club’s web site:

    I have no idea what happened, but helicopters–both full size and models–require one’s full time undivided attention. The same can be said of model airplanes as well.

    Despite his young age, he was a world class helicopter pilot. He had his own YouTube channel:

  5. Unless the guy is brain dead he should know the dangers of flying one of these…
    And unless the jury is brain dead, any lawsuit trying to get $$$ for stupidity should be thrown out!!

    And NO we don’t need more laws to regulate something Capt Obvious should know….

  6. Raff,

    I had one of those…. A copter pilot I am not…. The ground force proved it too…. I’ll just stick to remote controlled blimps and cars….. I did a little damage to the fridge in the house as well…. I learned the hard way…

  7. While this helicopter might not be designated as a toy, there seems to be no prohibition against a child purchasing it. I agree with Prof. Turley that a greater case for liability would be to a pedestrian, but these kind of hobbies need to be regulated to make sure children can’t try to use these. Scary case.

  8. We need some definitions here. The model helicopter is NOT a toy; it is a model. There is a difference. Toys tend to be safe for children to play with. Building and flying a radio control model airplane or helicopter requires a high level of skill. Children can learn to operate a model airplane or helicopter safely, but only if they learn and obey all safety rules at all times.

    A toy will come in a box with a marking such as, “For ages 9 and up.”

    A model helicopter will come in a box which says something like the list below. This is the actual spec list for the T-Rex 700:

    T-REX 700 Nitro CF Kits SetX1 set
    • 690D Carbon fiber bladesX1
    • 2 In 1 Voltage regulator comboX1 set
    • DS610 Digital servoX3 set
    • GP750 Head lock comboX1
    • RCE-G600 GovernorX1
    • Length: 1335mm
    • Height: 450mm
    • Main Blade Length: 690~710mm
    • Main Rotor Diameter: 1562~1602mm
    • Tail Rotor Diameter: 281mm
    • Engine Pinion Gear: 20T
    • Autorotation Tail Drive Gear: 150T
    • Drive Gear Ratio: 8.2:1:4.54(E:M:T)
    • Fuel Tank Capacity: 630cc.
    • Weight(Without Power System): Approx. 3200g

    Tragic accidents such as this one are exceedingly rare; in fact, I don’t recall another one like it, and I have been building and flying model airplanes since the 1940s.

  9. Unfortunate….. I read a story about a child bing beheaded by one of these in west Texas….

  10. I think this will be resolved by his family not suing. If he was a genuine enthusiast, and he dies in a genuine accident, I think his family would feel that it would debase his memory to sue based on what was really his own free choice and favored activity.

  11. You don’t have to have a license to ride a horse or a bicycle, but you can seriously injure or kill yourself in those hobbies. You don’t have to have a license to play with a loaded hand gun or rifle, either (in states that I know of), or own a swimming pool with a diving board, or ski down El Diablo, or play with your archery set in the back yard.

    I don’t consider it product liability, I think that like a gun or arrow, steel blades at 2000 RPM are obviously crazy dangerous and potentially lethal.

  12. The flyer was at a field designated for this activity. From the video, he appears to be very proficient. It is amazing that this type of injury is not more common place. The fact that it is not shows the vast majority of users use the product responsibly. That being said, anyone has access to this toy without training or supervision. Sorta like a bike that kills hundreds every year.

  13. 18 Up and Out. The guy is an adult and he takes his chances when he plays with helicopters. Go sue your neighbors, your dogpac, your aunt betty.

  14. What OS said.

    I had a buddy growing up who was huge into model aircraft. Planes and helicopters. He went on to become an aircraft mechanic with every single FAA certification you can get. His father was a pilot for most of his life. They would both tell you that model aircraft are not toys. They are scale models of the real thing and dangerous like the real thing if not treated with respect, caution and good sense. The little rubber electric powered helos you can buy at the mall? That’s a toy. Once you put a relatively high-powered gas engine in it? It’s not a toy.

    That said, a horrific and tragic accident.

  15. I am aware of smart people that have been mowing their lawn and lost fingers to the blade by inattention. This situation is I believe user beware.

    Lawnmowers don’t fly. ……. Now they do!!!

    I think this is a beginning of many more tragic stories to come.
    I will not be taking my grandson to parks that have flying and hovering lawnmowers buzzing around.

  16. Model helicopters of this size are not “toys” in the same sense of a Tonka truck, a rubber band powered model airplane, or even a remote control helicopter small enough to fly indoors in the living room. Flying radio controlled model aircraft is serious business. The Academy of Model Aeronautics has very specific rules by which its members must abide. However, the AMA rules have not been incorporated into any FAA regulations. Here is a complete list of the AMA documents where the rules for safe flying can be found.

    Personally, I don’t see how the manufacturer can be held liable for this tragedy. There are safety rules to follow, and even if he was not a member of the AMA, every model airplane magazine and the building instructions for these models preach safety. The young man either knew or should have known the operating rules. Failure to follow common sense safety rules can have serious consequences. Large RC helicopters are a serious hobby item, in the same sense that riding a motorcycle, target shooting, or skydiving are serious business.

    I would like to add that every AMA sanctioned model airplane club has strict rules and a field safety officer. Failure to abide by the rules can result in being thrown out of the club. All flying must be behind a safety line, and the flying area must be clear. If a model crashes, all flying activity must stop while the owner retrieves the model from the flying area.

    According to the news report, Pirozek was a member of Seaview Rotary Wings, and had been active in the hobby for a long time. The club is an AMA sanctioned club, and Pirozek would have had to know the rules.

  17. These are generally clueless people that could care less about how their noisy and obnoxious hobby affects others, let alone themselves. If you put a warning on this, it would probably encourage others to buy it for the danger thrill; the warning would be the attraction….Watch me duck out of the way of this dangerous toy, Marge. Opps, not quick enough. Go call another ambulance for your daddy….

  18. Product liability , my a__! Liberals like you Jonathan do not think anyone should be responsible for their own actions. The helicopter is only as dangerous as the idiot operating it. You would probably want a product liability action if someone put a kitchen knife high on a shelf and then went to reach for it, knocked it off the shelf, and it stuck into the person’s eye.

  19. Professor, agreed “foreeseable misuse” may be the legal standard. But couldn’t you say the same about a bicycle – a toy – being used to drive into the middle of a busy intersection, causing death of not only the bicyclist but other passers-by. Tragic and foreseeable, certainly, but I think assumption of the risks would carry the day here.

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