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WCB sues aircraft manufacturer for North Vancouver pilot's death

Transport Canada also named in negligence suit
WCB suit
The Workers' Compensation Board is suing the manufacturer of a downed airplane that killed a North Vancouver pilot

The Workers' Compensation Board is suing the aircraft company that manufactured the King Air 100 plane that crashed just short of the runway at Vancouver International Airport two years ago, killing the North Vancouver pilot and his co-pilot.

The WCB filed the lawsuit Oct. 22 in B.C. Supreme Court against manufacturer Beechcraft Corporation. Also named in the suit are Pratt & Whitney Canada, which makes aircraft engines, and Raisbeck Engineering, which makes aircraft modifications. The WCB is suing the companies for negligence causing the deaths of pilot Luc Fortin and co-pilot Matthew Robic.

The lawsuit also names the federal government, saying Transport Canada was negligent for failing to address known problems of electrical systems causing fires after airplane crashes despite recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board.

The suit also claims Transport Canada was negligent in failing to force companies to deal

with potential oil leaks from loose oil caps on the plane's engines.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The lawsuit comes two years after the fatal crash that killed the two pilots and injured seven passengers as the Kelownabound plane was returning to Vancouver International Airport to deal with an oil leak in one of the engines. The pilot lost control of the plane in the final moments of the flight and slammed into Russ Baker Way in Richmond, catching fire. Passersby rushed to help injured passengers out of the wreckage, saving their lives. But the pilots were trapped in the burning plane for longer. They both died of injuries caused by the fire.

In July, the Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings into the causes of the crash.

The report concluded both pilots of the plane could have survived their injuries from the crash, but were killed by the fire that engulfed the wreckage after impact.

That fire was concentrated in areas where the aircraft's electrical wiring was routed.

Since 2006, the safety board has recommended that Transport Canada adopt new standards including special switches for smaller planes that would cut power to electrical systems and reduce sources of ignition following crashes. So far, however, the government has not acted on those recommendations.

If Transport Canada had required the switches be installed, the pilots would have survived the accident, the lawsuit states.

Passengers who survived the crash have also called on the government to take action on the issue.

The Transportation Safety Board report pointed to a series of problems that caused the crash. An oil leak from one of the plane's engines happened after a cap was not properly secured. The airline company had also not adopted an optional modification offered by the engine manufacturer that would have dealt with the possibility of an unsecured oil cap. Pilots also did not take action after the oil leak was pointed out to them prior to take off.

The lawsuit launched this week blames Beechcraft for failing to adequately warn pilots of proper procedures they should follow when dealing with a loss of engine oil pressure.

The lawsuit alleges modifications to the aircraft done by Raisbeck "significantly increased the drag caused by an engine operating at reduced power" and "significantly increased" the minimum speed needed to maintain control when the plane was flying with only one engine working at full power.

The lawsuit is seeking damages on behalf of the pilots' families.

A spokeswoman from Beechcraft declined to comment on the lawsuit. Spokespersons for the federal justice department and Transport Canada also declined comment.

A West Vancouver woman who was a passenger on the plane also filed a suit recently against Northern Thunderbird Air Inc., the airline company.

Carolyn Cross had her seat come unbolted from the floor of the airplane from the force of the crash, according to the lawsuit.

Cross suffered multiple fractures and soft tissue injuries, mild brain injury and psychological injuries from the crash, according to her statement of claim.

Six other passengers, including a West Vancouver businessman, previously launched a similar suit against the airline.