Airshow sued with R17m lawsuit over fatal crash

Glen Dell died in a crash and his partner is claiming R17m in damages.
Glen Dell died in a crash and his partner is claiming R17m in damages.
Pretoria - The partner of world-renowned aerobatics pilot, Glen Dell, who fatally crashed his aircraft nearly six years ago at the Secunda Air Show, is claiming more than R17 million in damages from, among others, the organisers of the show. 

Jacqueline Eckersley said in papers before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that if there were more safety precautions in place and if the fire trucks acted more swiftly, Dell might have been alive today. He died in hospital on October 12, 2013, a day after the crash of his modified aerobatics plane. Dell was part of the Red Bull team which entertained the crowds from the air that day. 

 Spectators looked on in horror and disbelief as his aircraft made a downward spiral before it hit the ground and burst into flames. It was said that he had suffered about 90% burn wounds. He was airlifted to hospital but died the next afternoon. His partner claimed that the rescue and firefighting services that were there to provide safety, were not up to standard. This, she said, led to a delay in bringing the fire under control and evacuating Dell from the burning aircraft. 

 Eckersley alleged that Dell had survived the actual crash and that he had died as a result of the injuries that he suffered while in the aircraft after the crash, before the rescue services arrived. She instituted her claim against the Recreation Aviation Administration of South Africa (RAASA) , the Aeroclub of South Africa, Air Show South Africa and Sasol Limited.

 Eckersley stated that special air events are conducted under the supervision and control of the RAASA, and that it had certain obligations in terms of statutory provisions and regulations to ensure that there were adequate safety measures in place during these events. Her claim is for the loss of financial support and maintenance that she would have received if Dell hadn't died. 

 RAASA is a non-profit company designated by the Civil Aviation Authority to establish safety standards at airshows. Sasol was cited as a defendant as it provided the fire brigade service at this air show. Eckersley stated that she was an unemployed woman living in Kyalami and that she and Dell were life partners until his death. She said he undertook a duty to maintain and support her since they had moved in together in September 1989. 

 She said the organisers of the air show had a duty to ensure that emergency and firefighting services were available on the spot with the primary objective of saving lives. She complained that there were not enough emergency vehicles and personnel available on that day and those there were not trained in aerodrome rescue, nor properly equipped. 

 According to her, the vehicles were not capable of discharging foam or any other appropriate extinguishing agents, nor did the safety officials have fire resistant gloves and related equipment. A handline was used to spray water on the burning aircraft and the officers failed to immediately evacuate the pilot. Dell was only removed from the flames after some delay and after he had suffered severe burn wounds, she said. 

 Eckersley stated that at the time of his death, Dell was a senior captain employed at SAA, where he earned a substantial salary. He also earned an additional income as a test and display pilot. She said her loss of income as Dell could no longer maintain her, was estimated at R17.7 million. All the defendants are defending the claim and they deny any negligence on their part. The RAASA has raised preliminary legal objections to the claim, which was due to be argued in court this week. The matter, however, was not ready to proceed and it was postponed to a date still to be determined.
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