Norfolk Island plane crash results in public liability claim

Date: May 19, 2015

A couple have lodged a claim for damages against Pel-Air after a flight they took in November 2009 crashed close to Norfolk Island. The plaintiffs had been employed to transport a seriously ill patient and her husband from Samoa to Melbourne, before returning to Sydney.

The aircraft was due to refuel at Norfolk Island on the way to Melbourne, but stormy conditions meant this wasn't possible. Instead, the pilot attempted to land the aircraft on four occasions in the space of 45 minutes, but eventually the pilot chose to instead ditch the plane in the ocean. He informed the six passengers on board that the plane didn't have sufficient fuel.

Although everyone on board survived the crash, a life raft was not deployed and the plane did eventually sink. They were eventually rescued after 90 minutes by a passing fishing boat, despite not having any lights or other forms of communication.

The plaintiffs were able to put on their life jackets, assume the brace position and use their seat belts before the plane crashed. Nevertheless, they were still injured as a result of being flung around the cabin, which led them to file a public liability injury claim.

One of the claimants was treated at Norfolk Island Hospital for hypothermia, shock and pain. She has since received medical help not only for these injuries, but also the psychiatric problems that arose as a result of the crash.

The other was also distressed, but suffered severe bruising. The greatest problem has been the discomfort in his back, which has gradually worsened over time.

Damages have already been claimed from Pel-Air, as the company recognised that the crash had been caused by the negligence of both the pilot and his co-pilot. However, the plaintiffs sought costs for the medical treatment they have received as a result of ongoing health concerns, at the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

The presiding judge acknowledged that the costs should be met by Pel-Air, as well as compensation for any past treatments the parties have received. Future expenses will cover any treatment needed until the age of 85, which includes medication, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and surgery.

It was determined that one of the plaintiff's medical needs are likely to increase over time, with the court estimating that they are likely to reach two hours per week by the age of 40. By the time he reaches 50 years of age, this could increase to as much as six hours a week.

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