Family of Labrador floatplane crash victim sues Quebec airline for negligence

Nobody knows why an Air Saguenay floatplane crashed into Mistastin Lake in northern Labrador last summer, but the family of one victim is suing the Quebec airline for negligence.

Clifford Randell, 50, was killed in the crash along with six other people. He was one of two guides leading an expedition to the remote lake for clients from the United States.

There were no survivors.

The Transportation Safety Board was unable to determine a cause for the crash, since the plane was never recovered from the bottom of the lake. Despite that, Randell's family is moving forward, with claims of negligence and breach of contract against Air Saguenay.

"We expect to prove the most likely inference based on the circumstances is pilot error," said lawyer Jamie MacGillivray in a press release.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

When pressed for what evidence he had to support those inferences, MacGillivray said, "the weather wasn't bad and the plane crashed."

The TSB report, which was published last month, said the nearest weather station was in the coastal community of Nain — about 140 kilometres away — and was showing good weather the day of the crash.

It also stated the pilot, Gilles Morin, had more than 16,000 hours of experience on de Havilland Beaver floatplanes and had flown the route to Misastin Lake many times. The plane's maintenance record showed no red flags.

"Without any witnesses and without key pieces of the aircraft, the TSB is unable to conduct a full investigation into this accident," wrote investigator Daphne Boothe. "If the aircraft is found, the TSB will assess the feasibility of investigating the accident further."

It's not an uphill battle. - Jamie MacGillivray

Boothe's report found none of the passengers recovered after the crash were wearing personal flotation devices, which were made mandatory on floatplanes in March 2019. However, operators were given 18 months to conform to the new rule.

CBC News has not yet reached Air Saguenay for comment and no statement of defence has been filed.

Despite there being no physical evidence of neglect or breaching contract, MacGillivray was unfazed.

"It's not an uphill battle," he told CBC News.

"There's a thing called circumstantial evidence and that allows people to make probable inference based on the circumstances. So you don't have to prove to a scientific degree what actually happened. You just have to show the circumstances indicate that the pilot did something wrong or that the maintenance was somehow deficient."

Cliff Randell/Facebook

MacGillivray said the lawsuit is just for the Randell family, who hail from Grand Falls-Windsor.

Randell's body was recovered nine days after the crash.

His co-worker, Dwayne Winsor, was the other Newfoundland guide killed when the plane went down.

Along with pilot Morin, they were chartering Illinois man John Weaver II, 66, and his sons Matthew Weaver and John Weaver III, and 67-year-old James Slamon from New Jersey.

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