Families Of Nepal Plane Crash Victims Take Battle For Justice To Court

Lawyers Also Reveal Steps Forward In Campaign To Protect Travellers From Flight Safety Risks

04.02.2015

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The families of five British men killed in a plane crash in Nepal in September 2012 are taking their legal battle to court as they seek justice following their deaths.

Specialist aviation lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have launched legal proceedings at the High Court in London against package holiday provider Explore Worldwide Ltd in relation to the tragedy, where these families lost husbands/ partners and fathers who were among the 19 passengers killed after a Sita Air-operated Dornier 228 aircraft crashed during take-off from Kathmandu-Tribhuvan Airport.

Explore Worldwide has accepted responsibility to compensate the families of the five Britons and, following the launch of court proceedings, has started the process of making interim payments on account of damages. As well as taking steps forward in the battle for justice, the legal experts and families have also revealed that their efforts to improve flight safety in Nepal following this disaster have taken significant steps forward.

Following this tragedy, travel industry body ABTA  has agreed to consider amending its Code of Conduct to ensure all passengers booking on a blacklisted airline are made aware of its prior safety record.

Irwin Mitchell’s work on the Sita Air case included a campaign to raise awareness of notorious flight safety issues in Nepal, which culminated in the European Commission’s decision to add all of Nepal’s airlines, including Sita Air, to the blacklist of air carriers banned from flying in EU airspace.

Following that decision, Irwin Mitchell represented the five families at the inquest in April 2014. After submissions at the inquest by one of Irwin Mitchell’s specialist aviation lawyers working on the case, Jim Morris, Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg sent a Regulation 28 Report to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), notifying them of his concern regarding the blacklisting and inviting ABTA to provide details of any action that it intends to take in respect of members found to be arranging bookings using local flight operators in Nepal.

In a written response to the Coroner in April last year, Mark Tanzer, the Chief Executive of ABTA, confirmed that its board would consider a change to its Code of Conduct, this could mean customers are informed whether an airline they are booking with is on the European Union’s aviation safety blacklist, prior to booking a flight.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and Partner at Irwin Mitchell who is one of the legal team representing the families of the Nepal crash victims, said:

Expert Opinion
More than two years on from this terrible tragedy, the families we represent remain desperate for justice regarding the deaths of their loved ones.

“As well as achieving the financial security they deserve, the families also want to know that lessons have been learned to prevent further aviation tragedies in Nepal. The history of aviation safety there has been lamentable, and it is simply appalling that the Sita Air tragedy was the sixth fatal air crash in Nepal in two years. It was also not the last aircraft to crash in Nepal, with four other accidents (one resulting in 18 fatalities) being reported since September 2012.

“Following our representations to the EU and the subsequent blacklisting of Nepalese airlines we hope that this will put sufficient pressure on the Nepalese authorities and aviation operators to improve flight safety there.

“If ABTA agree the changes they have confirmed that they will consider , this will be another step in the right direction, as their implementation should mean that anyone looking to book a flight with Sita Air or another blacklisted airline through an ABTA member will be informed that the airline it is on the EU blacklist.

"However, it is very concerning that after more than 9 months we and our clients are still awaiting confirmation that ABTA will l actually implement these or similar changes

“It has long been our belief, and most importantly, that of our clients that more could and should have been done to ensure those travelling to Nepal are warned of potential risks related to flights within the country before they book their holidays there.

“Implementation of such a proposal by ABTA is crucial so that this can be achieved, but regrettably it is taking far too long to plug this information gap. Such details could make a huge difference in terms of helping holidaymakers, trekkers and other visitors to Nepal and elsewhere make informed decisions on whether to book flights operated by certain airlines.”
Jim Morris, Partner

Maggie Holding, from Stoke-on-Trent, whose husband Steve was killed in the crash, said: “Although two years have passed since the tragedy, we are still trying to come to terms with the loss we have suffered.

“If any good can come from the incident, it is that safety standards improve and changes are made to ensure the same mistakes are not made in the future. The news on ABTA’s proposal is encouraging and indicates that matters are moving in the right direction.  It is vital that this impresses on airlines in Nepal the need to work hard to make improvements.

"The possibility that any of Steve’s friends who visit and work in Nepal could suffer a similar fate appals me, so implementing changes and improvements in flight safety is crucial."

Angela Gaunt, whose husband Tim Oakes was also killed in the tragedy, outlined: “Travelling and trekking in Nepal is not safe enough and lessons have to be learned from the Sita Air crash and recent disasters. The World is a small place when it comes to travel and hundreds of thousands of tourists head out to Nepal each year to trek to BaseCamp - a significant number of these tourists may not be fully aware of the risks.  In addition to the safety concerns surrounding domestic flights, local Nepalese Guides have recently been on strike as they are concerned about the demands being placed on them and the lack of safety facilities/equipment on hand.

“Flight safety is a major issue in Nepal and whilst we cannot bring Tim back, I strive to ensure that no other families face the constant grief and heartache we have to live with. 

“Holidaymakers and trekkers heading to Nepal need to be given accurate and factual information to ensure that they can make informed decisions regarding travel, once you are fully versed with the facts the decision really is yours.

“Tim was killed due to a catalogue of avoidable safety measures not being in place to protect him. ABTA need to protect travellers by changing their Code of Conduct and Explore Worldwide must work with Irwin Mitchell to conclude our case and help us move on with our lives.  Trekking is the main tourist income for Nepal and the airline ban must have an impact on the standing of the nation and result in reduced income from tourism, but there is still work to be done to improve the safety of Nepalese air operators.  When standards have been sufficiently improved and the EU ban lifted, confidence in the safety of domestic flights can start to be restored.”

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