Chopper pilot awarded millions in crash claim
A HELICOPTER pilot has been awarded more than $5.6 million by Cairns' top judge over a crash which left him a quadriplegic.
Bruce Towers, 69, was flying for Papua New Guinean company Hevilift in 2006 when the Bell 206L-3 Long Ranger was enveloped by clouds in the Southern Highlands and crashed, killing three passengers.
During a lawsuit in 2016, Justice Jim Henry ruled that Hevilift had breached its duty of care by not warning Mr Towers about high speed cloud formations in the region he was flying.
Following civil action then launched by Mr Towers, Justice Henry has now awarded him just over $5.6 million following a decision handed down in the Cairns Supreme Court late yesterday.
The Victorian man had initially claimed $9.8 million to help cover the costs from his quadriplegic injuries, loss of wages and future care.
During the hearing in February, the court heard debate over how long Mr Towers would have continued to work if he had not been injured, his potential career moves had he stayed with Hevilift and his life expectancy.
Mr Towers said he was glad the 14-year legal battle was over.
"I had to use up all my superannuation funds to pay my hospital and medical bills and to live, all because of Hevilift," he said.
"They told me I was insured and following the accident said I was not insured.
"They tried everything in the book to disfigure me, to make me look like a bad pilot."
Slater and Gordon Workers' Compensation In-house Counsel Tim Lucey, whose firm represented Mr Towers, said his client was relieved to finally receive fair compensation.
"It's been a hard-fought case," he said
"No amount of compensation will make up for this accident and the impact on Bruce's life.
"But the money will assist him to ensure he will receive the care and support he requires as a quadriplegic for the rest of his life."
Hevilift Papua New Guinea director Augustine Mano said the judgment was a major milestone in a "lengthy and complicated legal process".
"The most important thing that we have not forgotten throughout this process is the three people who tragically lost their lives in this accident 14 years ago, and every person and family member who has been impacted by this tragedy," he said.
"The safety of our passengers and crew is today, and always has been, the first priority for us."
He said the judgment was based on a "technical ruling" and was unprecedented in aviation.
"It is a judgment that we expect will have wide-ranging implications for air operations in Papua New Guinea," he said.
"Hevilift PNG will be taking further advice in relation to what the decision means for our operations and, more generally, contracted aviation services in the country. As such, we cannot issue any more detailed remarks at this time."
The case is due to be mentioned briefly in court again later this month to consider costs.
Originally published as Cairns judge hands down decision over chopper crash claim