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  • Named & Shamed

    Helicopter Company Ripped-Off Flood Victims

    A Colorado helicopter company that students say took tens of thousands of dollars for training it never delivered - is now accused of taking money from people trapped during the September 2013 floods.

    Judy and Leonard Arnold say TYJ Global Helicopters owner Regina Fyola promised to rescue them from their home on Rainbow Lake near Lyons. Their $2,000 payment went through, but Fyola's helicopter never showed, and they never heard from her again.

    Desperate situation

    Heavy rains on September 11, 2013, washed out County Road 47 -- the only way in or out for the Arnolds and their neighbors in Big Elk Meadows. Rainbow Dam, usually visible from their home, was underwater.

    "The dam had disappeared and there was literally the Mississippi River going by our house," Leonard said.

    The Arnolds were particularly concerned because of Leonard's health. He has lung disease, and had already shared part of his oxygen supply with another stranded neighbor. They had lost electricity, and were running Leonard's oxygen machine off a generator.

    "I was worried that we would have to be in there for upwards of a week or so, and that would be not good for my husband," said Judy.

    "To be in that situation, and be uncertain about 'is our oxygen machine going to continue to run', was frightening," said Leonard.

    On September 12, the Arnolds decided they needed to get out, so they called their daughter, Alyssa Ericksen. Ericksen called several local helicopter companies, including TYJ. Regina Fyola called her back.

    "She was so nice. She was so sweet," said Ericksen. "Promising me 'This is gonna be okay. We can go in there and get them.'"

    But Ericksen said Fyola had an unusual request.

    "She didn't want me to pay her regular company because they were not licensed to do that sort of thing. She wanted me to put the money into the charity instead, her charity called Return Flight," Ericksen said.

    And the rescue wouldn't be cheap.

    "She wanted $2,000, which I thought was pretty high, but I went ahead and did it after speaking to my parents, because we really needed to get them out of there," said Ericksen.

    She said she sent payment that afternoon, through Fyola's web site - and never heard from Fyola again.

    The helicopter didn't show up.

    "Do you think TYJ was ever going to show up to pick you up?" CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon asked Leonard Arnold.

    "We have no indication they were," he said.

    History of problems

    The Arnolds are far from the first to accuse Fyola, TYJ, and Return Flight of taking money. The CALL7 Investigators first reported on dozens of complaints about the company and non-profit in May. Students claimed they paid tens of thousands of dollars for helicopter training they never received.

    Fyola agreed to an interview with Rabon at the time, but never showed. She didn't return any calls for comment about the Arnolds.

    "What really upset me is she knew how sick my dad was," Ericksen said. "She knew what a bad situation they were in."

    The Arnolds were finally rescued two days later, for free, by the National Guard. They eventually disputed the charge to TYJ, and eventually got their money back from their credit card company, but never got even an apology from Fyola.

    "It's unconscionable to sell a service and then not deliver and leave people where they were in trouble," said Judy Arnold.

    The CALL7 investigators checked with the Colorado Attorney General's office and found 25 complaints have been filed against TYJ and Return Flight since the beginning of 2013. But for now, neither Fyola nor the now-disbanded company face charges.

    Fyola owes more than $100,000 in outstanding judgments to customers who have taken her to court.

    Editor's Note:
    While Aviafora cannot verify the accuracy of this news report, if the accusations it contains are true, then TYJ Global Helicopters deserve to be 'named and shamed'. By highlighting the apparent misdeeds of commercial aviation organisations we believe we can contribute in some small way to (hopefully) encouraging others to pursue professionalism while warning of those who do not. TYJ Global Helicopters have been sent the link to this post and have been invited to offer their response.