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Parents file lawsuit relating to Thormanby Island plane crash

Negligence cited in suit against Pacific Coastal Airlines relating to decision to fly

Two years after a plane crash on Thormanby Island, the parents of one of the crash victims and the sole crash survivor have filed a lawsuit against Pacific Coastal Airlines for damages.

William and Deborah Adams of Bristol, NB, the parents of Kyle John Adams, one of seven people killed in the Pacific Coastal float plane crash on November 16, 2008, and Thomas Wilson, the crash survivor, filed the suit in BC Supreme Court. The suit also names three companies that provided maintenance for the aircraft that crashed in dense fog 20 minutes after takeoff from Vancouver.

The crash involved an amphibious Grumman Goose that departed from Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal for a flight to Powell River and then Toba Inlet where the pilot was going to drop off his seven passengers at a Plutonic Power Corporation work camp.

A search and rescue operation was launched and Wilson was located by members of Halfmoon Bay Coast Guard Auxiliary on the eastern shoreline of the island around 2 pm on November 16. The aircraft was located about 30 minutes later on a peak near Spyglass Hill. Adams and six other passengers were found dead at the crash scene and the aircraft was destroyed by the impact and post-crash fire. The emergency locator transmitter was destroyed and did not transmit.

According to the suit, as a result of the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiffs suffered damages including: past and future loss of support; past and future loss of valuable services; grief and loss of care, guidance and companionship. The plaintiffs are seeking general and special damages for funeral expenses, damages in trust for family members who provided care and court costs.

The suit claims that Pacific Coastal is liable for the conduct of their pilot, Peter McLeod, who was also killed in the accident and that Pacific Coastal owed a duty of care to the passengers in its aircraft.

The suit claims the company was negligent in a number of ways including failing to use reasonable care and skill in evaluating whether the weather conditions were appropriate for a safe flight; failing to use reasonable care and skill in piloting the aircraft and in carrying out the flight and failing to adequately maintain the aircraft.

The lawsuit comes after the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released its investigation report in late September. In its report, the TSB cautioned the aviation community that flying in low visibility was causing too many deaths in Canada. The TSB found the flight was likely conducted below weather minimums required for visual flight rules and as a result, the pilot did not see the island until seconds before the impact.

The TSB report went on to say that Pacific Coastal management had met with McLeod three times to discuss concerns they had with his decision making. According to the TSB report, the last meeting, about three months before the accident, was held because management was concerned that McLeod was completing trips in what other pilots deemed to be adverse wind and sea conditions.

The TSB report stated it was McLeod’s choice to take off in bad weather at 10 am on November 16, 2008 and that he gave his passengers the option to get off the plane, saying it would be a tough flight.

According to the TSB, since the crash, Pacific Coastal has changed its flight dispatch system meaning pilots can’t make that decision on their own.

Spencer Smith, vice-present, airports and call centre with Pacific Coastal Airlines said it was not appropriate for the company to comment on the case as it was before the courts when Coast Reporter contacted him with an interview request.