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Suit filed over air crash that killed three

Jun 01 2012

A Nanaimo-based airline and the families of a pilot and a passenger who died in a crash are being sued for damages in B.C. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit stems from the crash of a Cessna float plane as it flew from Tofino to Ahousaht on May 29, 2010. The plane was operated by Atleo River Air Services.

The pilot, Damon York, died in the crash, along with his three passengers - Edward Jonathan Jeremy Sam, his sister, Katrina Sam-English, and his cousin, Samantha Mattersdorfer, all from Ahousaht.

The common-law wife of Edward Sam, Melissa Ann Schram, is suing the airline, York and Mattersdorfer for unspecified damages on behalf of herself and the couple's twoyearold daughter.

Ahousaht is a First Nations community accessible by water and air that does not permit the sale or possession of alcohol.

Before boarding the flight in Tofino, the three passengers had been turned away from the water taxi service because they were all drunk and were attempting to transport several bottles of liquor and a case of beer to Ahousaht.

A report by the Transportation Safety Board concluded that the plane plummeted from 500 feet above sea level into the sea, two nautical miles from Ahousaht. A steep nosedive on that particular aircraft requires considerable pressure on the controls, the board said.

Mattersdorfer, who was seated behind the pilot, sustained two broken ankles in the crash and may have been bracing her feet on the back of the pilot's seat, the board report said.

York was wearing a lap belt but was not using the detachable shoulder belt.

His seat did not have a locking mechanism to prevent it being pushed forward by force from behind.

Only York and Katrina Sam-English, seated in the rear, right passenger seat, were wearing seat belts when the aircraft hit the water.

The plane's occupants either died on impact or from trauma combined with drowning.

A statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on March 25 alleges that Atleo Air Services and York were negligent in the operation and maintenance of the plane.

The aircraft was poorly suited to provide air taxi services and had known hazards such as a lack of lock on the front seats. The pilot should have been trained to request all passengers wear their seat belts, the document says.

The airline and pilot failed to modify door handles to they could be easy to operate in emergency situations and failed to require passengers to wear floatation vests, the plaintiff alleges.

The airline and pilot were negligent in allowing passengers to board the airplane with alcohol and allow it to be stored in the passenger area, the claim says.

The airline and pilot failed to deny a charter to intoxicated passengers and failed also to put in place a policy denying passage to those who are obviously intoxicated, it says.

Mattersdorfer contributed to the negligence, says the statement of claim, "by placing both of her feet on the back of the pilot's chair, which actions were reasonably foreseeable would interfere with the pilot's operation of the float plane and did contribute to causing the pilot to lose control of the float plane."

None of these allegations have been proven in court. A statement of defence has not yet been filed.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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