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Five lawsuits in Resolute crash
Survivors, families of deceased seek damages from First Air, NAV Canada and attorney general; First Air files suit against Department of National Defence

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 21, 2012

Five lawsuits have been filed alleging negligence caused last summer's fatal First Air crash near Resolute.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages in the statements of claim, all filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice.

The three survivors and several of the families of the deceased allege the negligence of First Air, the Department of National Defence and NAV Canada caused the accident, according to court documents.

As well, Bradley Air Services, owner of First Air, is suing the Department of National Defence (DND) for its role in the incident.

The tragic accident occurred on Aug. 20, 2011, killing 12 of 15 people on board the Boeing 737, which slammed into a hill while on approach to the Resolute runway. The Transportation Safety Board stated in a progress report that the pilots of First Air Flight 6560 had tried to abort landing two seconds before the crash.

The three survivors - Robin Wyllie, Nicole Williamson and Gabrielle Pelky - are seeking personal injury damages, including for "pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life" as well as medical and rehabilitation costs.

The families of Cheyenne Eckalook, Lise Lamoureux, Steve Girouard, Randolph Reid, Michael Rideout, Raymond Pitre and Chesley Tibbo are also seeking damages.

In a separate lawsuit, Sheila Bergmann, the widow of passenger Martin Bergmann, alleges First Air and NAV Canada are liable for accident damages.

The fatal flight also claimed the lives of four crew members, and their families are seeking damages in two separate lawsuits.

The relatives of pilot Blair Rutherford and co-pilot David Hare allege NAV Canada and the Attorney General of Canada, which represents DND, are liable for accident damages. In a separate lawsuit naming the same defendants, the families of flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie and Ute Merritt are seeking accident damages.

The plaintiffs allege NAV Canada failed to ensure the instrument landing system and other navigational aids were fully operational at the time of the accident, according to the statement claims.

Other allegations include NAV Canada failed to ensure an adequate level of personnel were on duty to handle the inbound traffic and that NAV Canada failed to co-ordinate with DND, leading to confusion and uncertainty as to the responsibilities.

Normally, the Resolute Bay Airport is an "uncontrolled airspace," meaning incoming flights depend on the pilots to identify other aircraft and use the instrument landing system.

On the day of the accident, members of the Canadian Forces were taking part in a training exercise.

According to the statements, DND and NAV Canada had arranged to operate Resolute Bay Airport as an air traffic controlled facility where incoming flights operate based on direction from ground crew.

At the time of the accident, DND air traffic control personnel were in communication with the crew of flight 6560 as well as several other inbound aircraft to Resolute Bay Airport, one statement reads.

This created an overload of work for DND air traffic control personnel, according to the claim. This resulted in a need for co-ordination of activities between NAV Canada in Edmonton and DND's operations in Resolute, the claim reads.

According to some of the legal documents, the flight was cleared for landing by DND and/or NAV Canada.

The victims' families' and survivors' lawsuit also includes First Air, as it states the airline is responsible for the actions of the pilot.

The fifth lawsuit, filed by Bradley Air Services, operating as First Air, alleges negligence by DND caused or contributed to the crash. The company is seeking damages and compensation for costs relating to claims from third parties.

The plaintiffs would like the trials to be held in Iqaluit.

First Air and NAV Canada would not comment on the lawsuits.

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