(CNN) -- A Canadian woman whose common-law husband died in a plane
crash after a drunken passenger allegedly kicked the pilot's seat
forward, jamming him into the instrument panel, is suing the estate of
the dead pilot in a British Columbia court.
The lawsuit alleges Damon York, 33, pilot of the Cessna plane,
violated Canadian aviation regulations by allowing the drunken
passenger to board his flight. In a Transportation Safety Board of
Canada accident report, investigators said the intoxicated passenger
most likely "kicked the pilot's seatback forward and held it there"
until the plane hit the water.
An autopsy found the passenger's ankles were broken on impact,
suggesting she was kicking the pilot's seat forward, the board said.
The Transportation Safety Board is the Canadian equivalent of the
United States' National Transportation Safety Board.
York had a broken wrist and other injuries that investigators believe
resulted from the pilot trying to free himself to regain control of
the plane as it plummeted, according to the report.
Killed were passengers Edward Sam, 28, his sister Katrina Sam-English,
22, his cousin Samantha Mattersdorfer, 24, who allegedly kicked the
pilot's seat, and York.
In the lawsuit, Sam's widow, Melissa Schram, alleges York and the
company he worked for were grossly negligent because the pilot's seat
was so easily shoved forward when Mattersdorfer kicked it.
Additionally, Schram's suit claims that because of improper training
the pilot failed to maintain calm during an emergency situation.
Schram is seeking compensation for loss of support, loss of
inheritance, loss of companionship and loss of household assistance.
The Cessna-185F floatplane nose-dived into the ocean near Vancouver
Island in May 2010. Floatplanes look like traditional aircraft but are
modified with pontoons allowing water landings.
Investigators say all three passengers had been drinking heavily on
the day of the crash when they chartered York's flight to return home.
The three passengers were members of the Ahousaht First Nation and the
reservation they lived on doesn't permit ***. The passengers
attempted to make their trip via boat, but a water taxi operator
refused to take them to the reservation because they had *** in
When investigators located the floatplane wreckage on the ocean floor,
beer cans were found near the passenger seats. Schram's attorneys
claim York hadn't properly stowed the luggage, allowing the passengers
to gain access to the *** they brought on board.
Witnesses told investigators that prior to departing, all three were
able to walk and were coherent enough to argue about the price of the
charter, according to the safety board's accident report.
According to CNN affiliate CTV, Vancouver has one of the largest
floatplane flotillas in the world. Sixty-seven percent of victims
killed in floatplane accidents die from drowning because they cannot
exit the plane as it sinks, a CTV report said.
Canadian officials have recommended installing pop-out windows and
quick-release doors on floatplanes, but those recommendations have
never been enforced. The lawsuit targets the plane operator for
failing to make the necessary changes to the floatplane.
Also named in the lawsuit are the company the pilot worked for, Atleo
River Air Services, and the estate of Mattersdorfer.