Lawsuit alleges negligence led to fatal Fond du Lac plane crash
At least six passengers on a West Wind Aviation airplane that crashed in northern Saskatchewan last month allege negligence by the airline and its majority shareholder led to the fatal crash.
The six, which include the parents of Arson Fern Jr., who died in hospital two weeks after the Dec. 13 crash near Fond du Lac, are listed in a class-action lawsuit against West Wind and Athabasca Basin Development filed Wednesday by Regina’s Merchant Law Group.
The lawsuit alleges the airline employed a pilot “prone to error,” overloaded the plane, flew a plane that was not properly maintained or repaired, did not de-ice the plane or the runway, did not properly light the runway, did not adequately train the flight crew on emergency situations and did not provide proper emergency instruction to the passengers — among a few other allegations.
“The passengers were left to fend for themselves in the chaos of the accident,” the statement reads.
All 22 passengers and three flight staff on board escaped the wreckage, but seven people were seriously injured. Nineteen-year-old Fern Jr., who the lawsuit says suffered a shattered pelvis, two broken ankles, other broken and fractured bones, a punctured lung and internal bleeding, died in Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital Dec. 27.
His parents, Arson Fern Sr. and Janey Fern, both attempted to comfort their son, who had cerebral palsy, immediately following the crash. He was left pinned by the wreckage.
“Arson Jr. was pinned while his father made every attempt to comfort him and keep him safe, while dealing with the crisis,” the lawsuit reads.
Both parents have “suffered profound grief and mental anguish” since the death, according to the suit.
Another passenger, Tiffany Hanson, also listed in the suit, is still in the care of Saskatoon City Hospital. Her legs were crushed in the crash and her left leg may require amputation, the lawsuit states. She’s had six surgeries and undergone skin grafts as part of her treatment so far.
The lawsuit claims the 26-year-old mother is no longer able to care for her two children.
“She cannot run and play with them, take them for walks, or do many other of the activities of a young mother,” it reads.
West Wind Aviation — which voluntarily suspended all flying operations immediately after the crash — was grounded by Transport Canada a little over a week after the ATR-42 turboprop plane went down. The plane, which was headed to Stoney Rapids, fell shortly after takeoff from Fond du Lac.
The crash left a path of wreckage extending at least 800 feet, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. No fire or explosion was caused by the impact, and engine failure has so far been ruled out as the cause of the crash.
The lawsuit claims West Wind officials gave each crash survivor $5,000 about a week after the crash, with a note reading, “West Wind airlines continues to have its thoughts and prayers with the victims of the December 13th, 2017 crash. In an effort to provide some help over the Christmas break during this difficult time, please accept this $5000. In no way does this money constitute a waiver for any future legal claims you may wish to make.”
The airline’s vice-president of business development and corporate services, Dennis Baranieski, issued a brief statement on the lawsuit Wednesday.
“We are hearing that legal proceedings may be initiated. If this does come to pass, we certainly will respect the legal process and its due diligence processes,” he said.
None of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
The lawsuit, which is open to all passengers and their families, doesn’t state how much money the plaintiffs seek.
--- with files from The Canadian Press