Dancer And Legal Experts Demand Answers On Anniversary Of In-Flight Incident
A professional dancer whose career has been left in the balance after she was injured in a terrifying ordeal on a United Airlines flight from the UK has joined forces with aviation law experts to call for answers about what happened on the first anniversary of the incident.
Cecilia Gotborg, 29, who is a Swedish National, was training and living in London when she suffered a serious neck injury on board UA Flight 935 from Heathrow to Los Angeles on May 25th last year, after the Boeing 777 she was travelling on unexpectedly plunged several hundred feet during a terrifying couple of minutes.
She continues to suffer from pain as a result of the incident and fears that the problems mean her career as a lead dancer in a range of top theatre shows could be coming to an end.
The cause of the problem on the flight at the time was reported as turbulence, but aviation law experts at Irwin Mitchell, London and Swedish aviation specialist Stephan Eriksson at Liman & Partners, Stockholm, are working together on the case and have serious concerns that a problem with the aircraft’s fly by wire and auto-pilot systems could have been a contributing factor.
Both firms are calling for reassurances from both Boeing and United Airlines that any potential technical fault has been investigated and that similar incidents will not occur in the future.
Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team, said: “Cecilia and all of the passengers on board, which included many Britons, suffered a horrendous ordeal when this plane suddenly seemed to lose control and drop out of the sky.
“The dangers of in-flight upsets are often underestimated but this terrible incident has demonstrated just how serious they can be. Other passengers, including Britons, suffered serious injuries and Cecilia’s career as a dancer is under threat because of the consequences of her neck injury.
“We are seeking answers as to how this incident came to occur and whether Boeing or United Airlines have really done enough to ensure the same issues will not happen again. This terrifying incident happened 12 months ago but all that is reported on the US National Transportation Safety Board website is that the case is under review.
“In accordance with Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, the International Civil Aviation Organisation standards for air accident investigations, it is recommended that the state conducting the investigation release an interim report by the first anniversary of the accident. We are concerned that it appears that this important recommendation has not been complied with.”
Stephan Eriksson of Liman & Partners added: “There are approximately 900 Boeing 777s currently in service and since they started flying in 1995 there have been no passenger or crew fatalities due to accidents or incidents involving this aircraft.
“However, due to previous fly by wire incidents involving Boeing 777 and Airbus aircraft, we want Boeing to provide assurance that all relevant in flight incidents have been investigated to ensure that there is no risk of fly by wire/ autopilot incidents re-occurring in the future.”
A professional dancer who has starred in numerous famous shows including We Will Rock You and Hair, Cecilia Gotborg was travelling with her friend on United Airlines Flight 935 from Heathrow to Los Angeles on May 25th.
She outlines: “We were looking forward to a relaxing break in the US, with ten days to relax and unwind in the sunshine after a busy period at work. However, the problems on the flight meant that never really happened.”
The stage star – who gained a degree in musical theatre dancing at Laine Theatres Arts in London and lived in the capital for seven years – and her fellow passengers were stunned when their flight to the US took a dramatic turn for the worse.
“All of the sudden the plane started to drop and passengers were thrown across the cabin and to the floor, along with their belongings. Sitting at the back of the plane, I got a terrifying view of the chaos happening in front of me. It really was the flight from hell,” Cecilia recalls.
However, the danger was not yet over for the dancer and others on the flight.
She remembers: “Everyone managed to get seated and were starting to calm down when the plane dropped again for a few seconds. We were all holding hands and terrified by what was going on, it was like being in a disaster movie.”
After the second drop, the cabin crew informed the passengers that they would come and check on them as soon as they could, while the flight was diverted to Montreal. Once on the ground, six seriously injured passengers were taken off the aircraft, while the rest were sent to a terminal, offered medical treatment and then put on a new plane to continue their journey.
“It was nerve-wracking going back on a plane just a few hours after what happened, but we got to LA eventually. The next day though I began to feel serious pain in the right of my neck and called a United Airlines number for advice.”
The rest of Cecilia’s trip to LA was ruined by her problems with the pain and she sought medical advice over her condition at the start of June when she visited Sweden.
However, the neck pain continues to impact on her and, more worryingly, her ability to perform on the stage.
She continues: “Choreographers have had to adjust routines and movements especially for me due to some steps causing me a major amount of pain. I can’t even enjoy basic training anymore and all because of those few horrible minutes.
“If the problems I’ve suffered on the flight are going to ruin the dream job I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl, I at least want some idea of how this happened and some idea of whether lessons can be learnt which will ensure others don’t go through my difficulties.”
Commenting on the case, Jim Morris of Irwin Mitchell said: “A year on and the terrible impact of this United Airlines flight is continuing to impact on people’s lives, with Cecilia facing the heartbreak of having to leave a job she absolutely adores.
“Our concerns over this case are that the incident is similar to other flights, such as problems suffered by a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight in 2005 and a Qantas A330 flight in 2008, where a loss of altitude which caused both whiplash and spinal injuries was attributed to faults with fly by wire systems.
“Boeing and United Airlines have a duty to all of those affected by the incident last year to come clean over what happened and confirm whether their investigations highlight any fault with the aircraft systems which could have either led to the loss of control or left the plane vulnerable to turbulence.
“We are not satisfied that the companies have provided those answers yet and want to know that all causes and contributing factors have been identified so that flight safety can be improved.”