Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 23, 2012 - 2:13 pm

Two more lawsuits seek damages from Resolute Bay crash

First Air flight attendants and pilots file separate statements of claim against Nav Canada and DND

JANE GEORGE
This Boeing 737-combi aircraft, operated by First Air, went down Aug. 20, 2011 in Resolute Bay. Now the families and estates of the two flight attendants, pilot and co-pilot who died that day are seeking damages from Nav Canada and the Department of National Defence. (FILE PHOTO)
This Boeing 737-combi aircraft, operated by First Air, went down Aug. 20, 2011 in Resolute Bay. Now the families and estates of the two flight attendants, pilot and co-pilot who died that day are seeking damages from Nav Canada and the Department of National Defence. (FILE PHOTO)

Nav Canada and the Department of National Defence now face two more lawsuits in connection with the Aug. 20, 2011 crash in Resolute Bay.

Two separate statements of claim have been filed on behalf of the estate and families of the First Air pilots and for that of two flight attendants, who all died that day.

This brings the number of statements of claim filed in connection with the air disaster that killed 12 people up to five, with the first three from the survivors and on behalf of the deceased passengers and First Air.

On May 4 surviving family members and estate administrators filed separate statements of claim for First Air flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie, 42, and Uta Merritt, 55, and for First Air pilot Norman Rutherford, 48, and co-pilot David Henry Hare, 35.

These statements make many of the claims made by the two previous statements, which were also filed by lawyer Adrian C. Wright of Yellowknife and GFY paralegal services in Iqaluit. They also seek money to compensate for, among other things, pain and suffering prior to death, loss of “guidance care and companionship,” loss of personal effects, loss of support, loss of future earnings, grief and funeral expenses.

The two lawsuits filed on behalf of the First Air crew members allege that Nav Canada and the Attorney General of Canada, through DND, was, at the time of the crash, responsible for providing air traffic control services, including flight information, aeronautical information, airport advisory services and electronic aids.

Both statements note that the Resolute Bay airport was equipped with an instrument landing system for runway 35T, which consists of two ground-based pieces of equipment intended to provide inbound aircraft with guidance to align aircraft and help aircraft descend to the runway for touchdown.

For the summer sovereignty exercise, Operation Nanook, which was underway in Resolute Bay at the time of the crash, the DND had established a temporary air traffic control tower and a ground-based radar system at the airport.

This “was in operation at the time of the accident and was capable of providing DND air traffic control personnel with detailed information on the location and speed of aircraft inbound to Resolute Bay airport,” the statements say.

Air traffic control personnel were in communication with Flight 6560 “and were or ought to have been” providing pilots with detailed information about the aircraft’s location.

“For reasons not known to the plaintifs, the pilots of flight 6560 failed to realize that the aircraft was not aligned with Runway 35T and was descending Into terrain until it was too late to take evasive action,” they say.

“The particulars of the negligence” say Nav Canada and DND failed:

• to ensure the ILS landing system was operational;

• to warn the pilots that they were not aligned with the runway;

• to adequately coordinate air traffic control;

• to ensure controllers were briefed on civilian procedures, and

• to properly train the air traffic control personnel.

The statements also say they instructed “the pilots of flight 6560 to fly an approach to Runway 35 T that was not safe and not aligned with the runway.”

Nav Canada and DND have until June 3 to respond to the statements of claim, or else the plaintiffs may enter a judgment against them — that is, a tally of all the damages claimed — which could be granted by the Nunavut court.

The lawsuits are asking for a trial in Iqaluit.

The preliminary Transportation Safety Board Investigation, released in January, shows the flight crew attempted an aborted landing two seconds before impact.

But TSB investigators have yet to explain what caused the crash.

When released, the full report will look at the causes and contributing factors that led the crash, but will not assign fault.

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