POLITICS

Death review panels wants Transport Canada to require life jackets on seaplanes

05/01/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 07/01/2012 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - The BC Coroners Service is recommending Transport Canada require all passengers and crew aboard commercial floatplanes wear life jackets during every stage of a flight.

That's among 19 recommendations issued Tuesday by a death review panel of industry experts aiming to prevent fatal accidents along British Columbia's coast.

The panel also recommended that all new and existing seaplanes be equipped with emergency exits so people could quickly disembark after a collision with water.

The panel of industry experts called for certified aircraft to be equipped with a switch that severs connections with electrical power sources to prevent fires after impact.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the recommendations should be taken very seriously because they're based on a detailed examination of four crashes that killed 23 people between 2005 and 2009.

"They are the result of open and frank discussions and review by a diverse blue-ribbon panel of experts in the field provincewide," she said.

The Transportation Safety Board has been calling for similar changes to protect pilots and passengers for more than a decade, but the federal government delayed implementing the changes last year in favour of further consultations.

One of the incidents the panel reviewed involved the November 2009 deaths of six people, including a baby, after a de Havilland Beaver crashed and sank in Lyall Harbour off Saturna Island, between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

The panel recommended that Transport Canada initiate research into technologies that would allow seaplanes to stay afloat, or significantly delay the rate of sinking, after collisions with water.

There were several reasons for the crash, but the Transportation Safety Board was most concerned with the fact that passengers were unable to escape the damaged, sinking plane.

Most of the panel's recommendations are directed toward improved regulation of the industry, and others address issues such as plane design, weather-forecasting and record keeping.