SACRAMENTO, CA - Sacramento County has suddenly stopped making disability and medical payments to the lone survivor of a 2005 sheriff's helicopter crash that killed two fellow deputies.
Eric Henrikson had been receiving $3,657 per month to compensate him for life-altering injuries that ended his law enforcement career.
Killed in the July 13, 2005 crash over Lake Natoma were pilot Joseph Kievernagel, 36, and front seat observer Kevin Blount, 29.
Henrikson, 28 at the time and training to join the helicopter unit, suffered severe head trauma, third degree burns and broken bones. A severe brain injury left him in a coma for nearly two months.
He later donated $250,000 to Mercy Foundation to thank the medical staff that saved his life.
The county filed a petition with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board May 8 seeking to force Henrikson to pay for his own living expenses and medical treatment from a $26 million settlement he received in 2008 from Turbomeca, the French manufacturer of the engine that malfunctioned during the ill-fated flight.
Just a week before Henrikson settled with Turbomeca, Sacramento County signed an agreement that it would not file a present or future claim on the money because it was seeking its own settlement with the company.
"A deal is a deal is a deal," said Sacramento attorney David Mastagni, who negotiated the settlement with Turbomeca and got the county to agree not to take any of it.
Although Mastagni would not discuss the amount of Henrikson's settlement with Turbomeca because he remains bound by a confidentiality agreement, he did say that lifetime disability payments from the county were factored into the negotiations.
Sacramento County settled its own lawsuit with Turbomeca last year for a reported $1.5 million, far less than the amount it was seeking for benefits paid to Henrikson and the families of the two other deputies along with the loss of the $4 million helicopter.
Former Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas, who headed the department in 2005, expressed disbelief the county had cut off Henrikson's benefits.
"I've got to believe it's a bureaucratic mistake," Blanas said. "I've got a call in to the county executive's office to see if they even know about it."
When contacted by News10, the county executive's office confirmed it was aware of the petition to stop Henrikson's workers' compensation benefits and issued the following statement:
Since July of 2005, the County has fully supported Eric in his recovery. In light of Eric's settlement with Turbomeca the issue of continuing responsibility for benefits is currently the subject of litigation. If it is found that we have a duty to pay additional benefits, the County will certainly do so. Since this issue is currently in litigation, we cannot comment any further.
Mastagni is fighting the petition with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and has filed a federal lawsuit to force Sacramento County to comply with its agreement not to pursue Henrikson's settlement, which was entered as a federal court order on June 19, 2008.
"What the county is doing to this former deputy is not reflective of what the citizens of Sacramento County want for the deputy," he said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net