Alaska Site-Seeing Airplane Crash

A de Havilland Beaver single-engine float-plane crashed near Misty Fjords National Monument in Ketchikan, Alaska on Tuesday, July 25, 2007. Five people were killed, including the pilot and two couples who had been traveling on the Sun Princess, a Princess Cruise Lines ship. Anthony Tarricone, a partner in Kreindler's Boston office, has prosecuted a number of site-seeing accident cases as have other partners in the firm's New York and California offices. These cases include Vetrano v. Teledyne Industries, Inc., et al., U.S. District Court, No. A98-0352, which settled before trial. The Vetrano accident arose from a site-seeing airplane accident in Alaska and the litigation involved many of the same issues that the victims' families of the July 25 accident will face, including liability and insurance questions. Site-seeing airplane accident rates have been historically higher than most other general aviation accident rates. The rates have been caused by a combination of human factors (mission planning and piloting) and mechanical problems (very often improper maintenance). The site-seeing industry is insufficiently regulated and many companies do not carry sufficient insurance. It is important in these cases to identify all parties that may be responsible so that the victims' families will receive adequate and just compensation.

This particular accident raises interesting and complex issues regarding the liability of the Cruise Line itself for the crash. In this instance, the sightseeing flight was an excursion sponsored by the cruise company. This may render it accountable.

According to Paul Edelman, senior counsel to Kreindler and Kreindler, who is recognized as one of the preeminent maritime law experts in the United States, the specific facts regarding arranging the sightseeing flight will dictate the Cruise Line's fault. If the Cruise Line promoted the operator, Taquan Air, sold the tickets, provided literature or sign up forms or shared the profits for the flight, it may be held liable for damages.