Families involved in Fond du Lac plane crash filing class action

By Bryan Eneas
January 24, 2018 - 9:57am Updated: January 24, 2018 - 11:56am

A number of families involved in the Fond du Lac plane crash in early December have approached a lawyer in Regina to file a class action lawsuit.

Tony Merchant, from the Merchant Law Group said he was approached by six families, including the parents of Arson Fern Jr., to file a class action lawsuit which will cover all passengers on the West Wind Aviation flight. He said he will be filing a statement of claim today, Jan. 24 in Regina.

“Everyone on the plane is entitled to compensation. Even people who were not injured, but although not injured they were put through a horrific experience,” Merchant said.

He added the break-up of the plane, the shock, difficulties of getting out of the plane, 40 minutes in the dark, the inherent dangers of a plane crash, and injuries all justify a high level of compensation.

Merchant said he considered adding the pilots and flight crew who were injured in the crash into the class action lawsuit. He said they most likely received money from the Workers Compensation Board, which would not allow them to participate in legal action.

A Statement of Claim sent to paNOW outlines the grounds for the families’ class action.

The claim states no appropriate steps were taken to de-ice the runways prior to take-off. The plane in question should not have been attempting to take-off from a runway as small as Fond du Lac airport's, Merchant said.

“If you think about what happens in an Air Canada flight, you go far down the runway, you get up to a big speed, and then you take-off at about a 45 degree angle,” Merchant said. “None of these things were possible in Fond du Lac with this plane.”

Merchant said there were talks in the Fond du Lac terminal prior to take-off about the plane being overweight. He alleges West Wind Aviation did not take the proper measures for weight distribution as none of the passengers were moved from their seats.

Tiffany Hanson, a passenger who was severely injured was named in the statement of claim; she noted she saw visible cracks in the aircraft prior to boarding.

Once the plane crashed, Merchant said families claim they did not received enough direction prior to impact. He alleged no instruction was given as to how to prepare for the collision and passengers then received little to no direction as to how to evacuate the plane once it was on the ground.

“West Wind does not appear to have prepared its people for disaster scenarios and that’s what flight training is about,” Merchant said.

The lawyer alleges the crash was caused by owner negligence. 

None of Merchant's allegations or the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in a court of law.

Fern family filing on behalf of lost son

Arson Fern Jr. suffered a shattered pelvis, two broken ankles, other broken and fractured bones, a punctured lung and internal bleeding from the crash. He died on Dec. 27, 2017 after being placed in critical condition at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

Arson Fern Sr. and Janey Fern stated they lost a significant part of their lives with the death of their son, and have experienced “profound grief” and mental anguish in the time since he passed.

“If there had been a warning, if Arson Jr. had taken a crash position, if help had come more quickly, again, alerting air traffic control that the crash was occurring… a confluence of bad things happened which horribly led to the death of Arson Jr.,” Merchant said.

Families received $5,000 from West Wind

The statement of claim Merchant is filing states survivors each received $5,000 one week after the crash, along with a message from West Wind aviation offering “thoughts and prayers.” It is alleged the message said the money was to alleviate the pressures of the Christmas season and in no way waived the right to file any future legal action. No documents were signed in relation to accepting the money according to the statement of claim.

Athabasca Basin Development is the majority shareholder of West Wind Aviation. Both are named as defendants in the class action.

The Transportation Safety Board has since grounded all West Wind Aviation flights, citing deficiencies in the company’s operational control system. The company received the order but had already voluntarily suspended all flying operations.

Dennis Baranieski, the Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Services from West Wind Aviation responded to the Statement of Claim being filed by Merchant.

"We are hearing legal proceedings may be initiated; if this does come to pass we certainly will respect the legal process and it's due diligence processes," Baranieski said, adding the legal action is a new development for the company.


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On Twitter: @BryanEneas

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