Wrongful death lawsuit connected to fatal 2016 plane crash apparently settled; Plaintiffs were seeking $5 million

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 27, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – A wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a deceased airplane pilot, which suggested negligence and technological failure on the part of the defendants caused the fatal crash, was recently dismissed in federal court.

On Jan. 18, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann ordered the instant litigation dismissed with prejudice, upon mutual consent of all parties concerned.

Rifat Tawfig’s family first filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 15, against St. Catharines Flying Club of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada, Transport Canada, Inc. of Concord, Ontario, Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit was brought by Salwa Ibrahim Norry, Yousif Tawfig, Ayat Tawfig, Israa Tawfig and Adriana Tawfig, all of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. It claims the defendants were collectively negligent in deeming the plane operational and permitting it to fly, and prior to dismissal, sought total damages in the amount of $5 million.

The litigation was connected to a fatal airplane crash more than two years ago, involving a flight from Richmond, Va., to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and an aircraft owned and operated by the Flying Club.

A second, related litigation connected to the case pointed to the failure of a device called the Tempest Vacuum Pump installed on the aircraft which failed, and allegedly served as the proximate cause of the crash.

“Flying Club is a flying school located in Ontario, Canada. It offers training for pilots for initial licensing, instructor qualification, instrument rating, and commercial licensing. Initial pilot training consists of both flight and ground training. Some of that training takes place in the United States,” according to the related litigation.

“Flying Club’s initial flight training is called the AB Initio program. Decedents Mijac and Jeffries were students in the program. On Oct. 12, 2016, defendant, Flying Club sent five of its aircraft, along with instructors and students to the United States for several days of flying. They were returning to St. Catharines on Oct. 16, 2016, the day of the crash.”

Along with instructor Tawfig, the decedents flew in a Piper PA-28-161 plane. All three were supervised by senior instructors Ryan Lefebvre and Scott Motean, who recently trained Tawfig in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) flying. Though the pair allegedly had concerns about Tawfig’s level of ability, they did not stop the flight.

“On the final leg of the return trip to St. Catharines/Niagara District Airport, the IMC conditions foreseen and forecasted occurred. Tawfig flew into the IMC conditions, subsequently lost control of his aircraft and crashed it into the ground. The crash claimed the lives of decedents Mijac and Jeffries,” the related lawsuit said.

The related litigation also explained Aero Accessories manufactured parts and components on the accident aircraft that failed during the flight contributed to the aircraft to crash into the ground, and the vacuum pump designed, overhauled, manufactured, and provided by defendants Aero Accessories failed in flight. As a result of the failure of the vacuum pump, a number of the instruments in the mishap aircraft were said to have been inoperative or providing false information which contributed to the crash, the suit says.

The instant case alleged St. Catharines Flying Club failed to perform required maintenance on the flight and failed to disclose defects on the airplane, Transport Canada, Inc. failed to ensure the Flying Club abided by Canadian aviation laws and that the Federal Aviation Administration failed to warn various air traffic control facilities in interaction with the airplane to willfully and knowingly compromise on the safety issues in the plane, disregarding the rights and safety of the operators and the others.

Tawfig’s family was represented by Muhammad Maqsood Alam and Bill Denstedt of Alam Law Office in Ontario, Canada.

St. Catharines Flying Club was represented by Zachary J. Ballard of Salmon Ricchezza Singer & Turchi, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania case 4:18-cv-01988

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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