Nepal Plane Crash 'Robbed Us Of Our Future', Devastated Families Say

Coroner To Write To ABTA To Warn Of Tour Operators’ Use Of Nepalese Airlines

08.04.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The families of British passengers killed in a plane crash in Nepal say the tragedy ‘robbed them of their future’ but have pledged to continue their fight to improve airline safety in the country.

Speaking after an inquest into the crash recorded a narrative verdict, the families of three Britons who died in the incident in September 2012 spoke of their anguish and how they are still coming to terms with their loss.

The Coroner said he will write to the travel industry trade body, ABTA, to warn about tour operators' use of blacklisted Nepalese airlines (NB. Explore no longer uses them). He also said he would write to tour operator Explore about baggage allowances as he highlighted that the aircraft was “overloaded, possible substantially overloaded”.
 
Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team acts for the loved ones of Tim Oakes, Benjamin Ogden and Steve Holding and the families of two other British victims, who were among 19 passengers (including seven Britons) and crew killed when a Sita Air-operated Dornier 228 aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from Kathmandu-Tribhuvan Airport.

An official accident report released in August last year identified a range of concerns including the overloading of the aircraft and suggestions that the pilots were not properly trained to handle an emergency that involves loss of power in one of the engines during take-off.

Following the conclusion of the inquest, Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team have revealed their determination to ensure the families of those killed gain justice in relation to the incident and that measures are taken by the industry and authorities to improve flight safety and to ensure that when purchasing package holidays customers are informed of any known risks concerning transportation within the country in question.

The team has already secured an admission of liability from tour package provider Explore Worldwide Ltd in relation to the tragedy, while it also successfully campaigned for all Nepalese airlines to be blacklisted from operating in the European Union.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team who represented families at the inquest, said:

Expert Opinion
Our clients have suffered terribly following this tragedy and this inquest has been a very emotional experience for them.

“The basic facts speak for themselves. Prior to the Sita tragedy, from 2000 to 2012 there were 14 air crashes in Nepal that caused over 150 deaths and this tragedy was the sixth fatal plane crash in the country across a two-year period.

“Clearly Nepal domestic flights had a dreadful safety record prior to the Sita crash and following on from this inquest our families clearly believe that more should have been done in advance to warn of the dangers of internal flights in Nepal. Had this been done, it is likely that a number of the British passengers may not have purchased the holiday package and would still be alive today.

“Since the Sita Air crash, there have been four further air accidents, one of which tragically killed all 18 persons on board – this continuation of poor safety is very concerning.

“While we were delighted that the EU listened to our concerns regarding Nepalese airlines, our clients and the public at large need to see that the authorities and industry are taking proactive measures to improve flight safety. Once this has been achieved and the EU Commission removes Nepal carriers from the blacklist, the process of restoring confidence in domestic flights in Nepal with Nepalese carriers can start.

“In terms of the legal case against Explore in England, although they have admitted liability we still have to reach agreement as to the fair value of our clients’ claims for the loss of their loved ones. We hope to negotiate without the need for a trial but we will be issuing proceedings in the High Court on the issue of the quantum of the claims as part of the on-going litigation/ negotiation process.”
Jim Morris, Partner

Among the clients that Irwin Mitchell represents is Maggie Holding, from Stoke-on-Trent, whose husband Steve was killed in the crash. Commenting on today’s verdict, she said: “The crash has robbed Steve and I of the future we’d hoped to have.  The pain I felt seeing the burning plane on my TV screen will never leave me.
 
“The anger I feel about the tragedy is exacerbated by the fact that aviation safety in Nepal continues to fall well below EU required standards and there have been more crashes since 2012.
 
As a matter of urgency, Nepal must act on the recommendations made regarding ways to improve aviation safety for both its own people and tourists. British travel companies selling flight packages in Nepal have a duty to inform their clients fully about the risks involved.”

Angela Gaunt, from Warrington, whose husband Tim Oakes died in the tragedy, said: “Today's inquest brings to an end the formal process of providing a verdict on the death of my husband, Tim.   However it will not bring an end to the injustice and down-right carelessness of those responsible for this tragic event. It will also not take away the pain and sadness that still remains deep in our hearts. 

“We have spent a long and emotional 18 months working with others to understand why the plane crashed and how such sloppy procedures are tolerated and even encouraged.  For our own health and welfare, today must also be the day when we start to focus on ourselves and our own future.  

“As a family, we are grateful to the European Commission for blacklisting the Nepali Airline until such a time that they have put the 15 plus safety recommendations into place.  We are also grateful to the AAIB for managing to get the flight investigation report published and to our Family Liaison Offer whose support has been invaluable.

“Finally, our thoughts today also go out to the families of the passengers on the missing Malaysia plane, how dreadful it must be for them all."

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Aviation Accident Claims.