The survivors and some family members of the victims in last year's First Air crash in Resolute, Nunavut are suing the airline, NAV Canada and the federal government for negligence.
On August 20, 2011 a Boeing 737 crashed into a hillside close to the community’s airport. The crash killed 12 people, including the two pilots and two crew members. Three people survived.
Two separate lawsuits have been filed at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
In one statement of claim, families of seven of the victims and the survivors allege the crash was caused by negligence.
They're suing First Air and NAV Canada, a private company based in Ottawa that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, as well as the Attorney General, who represents the Department of National Defence.
They are claiming damages for their physical injuries and psychological harm, as well as "pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life."
10 allegations of negligence
The lawsuit lists seven ways in which the air traffic controllers failed to do their jobs, and weren't properly briefed about how to handle civilian aircraft. It says they didn't have enough training, that there weren’t enough air traffic controllers on duty to handle the traffic and that there was confusion about their responsibilities.
The documents specify that NAV Canada and DND should have done more to warn the pilots that they weren’t aligned with the runway and were heading for the hill.
Both lawsuits say First Air was responsible for the actions of the pilots who failed to realize the plane was not alligned with the runway and was heading into land; didn't use the landing equipment correctly; and didn't communicate with air traffic controllers properly.
One lawsuit alleges DND, NAV Canada and First Air are "jointly and severally liable" for damages.
The other lawsuit is from the widow of arctic scientist Marty Bergmann, who was a passenger.
Sheila Bergmann McCrae also said in her statement of claim the "accident was caused by negligence." She does not list DND among the defendants but she includes the same allegations against NAV Canada and First Air.
The alleged negligence claimed by plaintiffs includes failing to warn pilots the aircraft was not aligned with the runway and failing to ensure the instrument landing system was working.
The Transportation Safety Board stated in a progress report in January that NAV Canada checked the ground-based instrument landing system equipment two days later and reported it was working. It found that at the time of the crash, the jet was structurally sound. Another aircraft successfully landed 20 minutes later.
DND set up temporary air traffic control tower
The lawsuits say the Resolute Bay Airport is normally an “uncontrolled airspace,” meaning pilots land using instruments and don’t usually use air traffic control services. The pilots ensure other aircraft aren’t landing at the same time and plan their approach to the runway.
But on the day of the crash, the Canadian military was in Resolute for Operation Nanook, a training exercise. The documents say DND and NAV Canada had arranged for air traffic controllers to work out of the airport, "the details of [the arrangement] are presently unknown to the plaintiffs."
They set up a temporary air traffic control tower that included a ground-based radar system. The lawsuit says air traffic controllers should have been providing military aircraft and the First Air crew with detailed information to prevent them from flying into the hill.
But that didn’t happen, the lawsuit says.
"For reasons presently unknown to the plaintiff, the pilots of First Air Flight 6560 failed to realize that they “were descending into terrain until it was too late to take action."
Both groups want trials to be held in Iqaluit and they are represented by the same Yellowknife-based lawyer, Adrian Wright.
Neither lawsuit specifies a specific amount of money.
First Air and NAV Canada refused to comment on either lawsuit.
The families of the two pilots and the two crew members are not included in either lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash.
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