Family sues over pilot death

SAD LOSS: Pilot Andrew Cantle, pictured with partner Beth Webster, who died when his aircraft crashed and overturned at Cork International Airport

SAD LOSS: Pilot Andrew Cantle, pictured with partner Beth Webster, who died when his aircraft crashed and overturned at Cork International Airport

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THE family and partner of a pilot killed in a plane crash have launched a £1million legal claim against his employer and flight operator.

Andrew Cantle, from Moorside, Sunderland, died along with five other people in the horrific accident in the Republic of Ireland last year.

Earlier this week, an interim report by Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit revealed there was a problem with one engine.

Mr Cantle, 27, and Spanish pilot Jordi Lopez, 31, were making a third attempt to bring down the turboprop aircraft in thick fog when it crashed and overturned at Cork International Airport.

Both Mr Cantle, who was newly qualified and had just started his first airline job, and Mr Lopez were killed, along with four passengers on board the flight from Belfast.

Six others on board survived.

Now, as the first anniversary of the tragedy was marked yesterday, law firm Irwin Mitchell has officially filed a legal action on behalf of his family and partner Beth Webster.

Solicitors said any settlement could potentially rise to “seven-figures”.

Today, his loved ones, who are still coming to terms with their loss, said they wanted to see urgent changes to air safety in a bid to prevent a recurrence of the accident.

“Since the accident, my life has been a living nightmare,” said air stewardess Beth, who lived with Mr Cantle. “Andy and I had a bright and promising future together and now I struggle to cope with life without him.

“My family, Andy’s family and I have never doubted for a second Andy’s abilities as a pilot and the interim report appears to confirm our strongly held beliefs.

“I personally would like to see a review of the current Aviation Law in order to prevent any similar tragedies from occurring.”

Mr Cantle’s dad John also paid tribute to his popular son, a former volunteer with Sunderland RNLI.

“Andrew was a brilliant son, brilliant brother, brilliant pilot and aviator who touched his dream,” he said. “Andrew had many friends through university and flying school who are young keen pilots.

“We cannot bring back what we have lost but, if this stops other families going through what we have had to this year and in future years then at least a part of Andrew will be remembered.”

The Air Accident Investigation Unit report revealed that the captain took control of the engine power levers for the final approach and that there had been a technical problem with one of the engines,

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and partner in the company’s specialist Aviation Law team, said: “From the outset, we have believed that this accident was caused by the actions of the captain and those responsible for rostering a very inexperienced crew together in poor weather conditions.

“The latest interim report provides further confirmation of questionable decisions made by the captain during the flight and also indicates that there were problems with the thrust of one of the engines, due to a faulty sensor, that may have aggravated the perilous situation in which the captain had placed the aircraft.”

The legal team is working with Dublin law firm Murray Flynn Maguire and has filed the case against Airlada, the Spanish company which provided the aircraft and employed the crew, as well as operator Flightline BCN, over the actions of the captain on the flight and decisions made in relation safety oversight of the air operations and crew rostering.

“We hope that the final report will deal in detail with all captaincy, operational and technical issues that contributed to this accident so that the families and victims can understand the chain of events that lead to this accident,” said Mr Morris.

“However, the aim of the accident investigation is not to apportion blame, but to determine what caused the accident to improve flight safety.

“As such, on behalf of Beth and Andrew’s family, we have now filed this case in Ireland so that those responsible can be held to account for this wholly avoidable tragedy.”

Airlada and Flightline BCN were unavailable for comment.