UK student sues CASA over plane crash

Date: Feb 05, 2020

In January 2017, a UK student suffered a traumatic brain injury after the plane she was on crashed on a Middle Island beach. Now, family members of the woman, Hannah O’Dowd, have filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit accusing the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of negligence.

The facts of the case

The four-seater Cessna 172M charter flight departed the Agnes Water aeroplane landing area in Queensland and set a course for a day trip to Middle Island, just south of Gladstone. On the flight with O’Dowd were the pilot, Les Woodall, as well as a 13-year-old boy and another young female tourist.

While Woodall was conducting an airborne inspection of the beach’s aeroplane landing area, the aircraft’s engine experienced a sudden and total power loss at about 60 feet above mean sea level. The pilot conducted the initial checks, but then decided to turn back to the beach. During this significant left turn, the pilot lost control and the plane crashed against the beach at a fast rate of descent.

The pilot and teenager suffered serious injuries, while the other young female tourist passed away from her wounds and trauma. O’Dowd also suffered serious injuries, and has been in an induced coma for the past three years.

The investigation’s report

In response to the crash, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report of its investigation. In its finding, the ATSB was unable to discern the cause of the power loss. However, the investigation revealed that the pilot’s practices and procedures did not appropriately manage the risk of flying at a low height.

“Although he believed [the left turn] to be the safest option under the circumstances, it was inconsistent with standard training and guidance to land within 30 (degrees) either side of straight ahead following an engine failure at a low height,” the report noted. “During the continued left turn toward the beach, the aircraft did not have sufficient performance to avoid a collision with terrain, and it impacted terrain with little or no control and a significant descent rate.”

The O’Dowd family is seeking approximately $3 million, which includes $174,000 in general damages, as well as more than $2 million for future economic loss.

If you’ve been the victim of injury or illness due to an organisation’s failure in its duty to provide a safe service, you may have grounds to file a public liability lawsuit. Contact the public liability experts at Gerard Malouf and Partners to learn what rights you have.

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