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Pittsburgh Family survives crash of small plane in Tanzania

On January 2, 2017 a family from Pittsburgh, consisting of a husband, wife, and three daughters were on a sightseeing trip to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. They were on board a Cessna Caravan II operated by Air Excel, a local carrier, which crashed upon takeoff from an airfield at Dar Es Salaam.

While the wife and daughters escaped the aircraft as it caught fire, the husband climbed over to the nose of the plane and rescued the two pilots, who had been rendered unconscious. The family members sustained only cuts and bruises, and were able to return to the United States a couple of days later.

Local Tanzanian law may be tricky insofar as attempting to pursue litigation against the air carrier, which has a small fleet that runs scheduled and charter flights throughout Tanzania. Most international air accidents are governed by the Montreal Convention, which ascribes limits to payouts to people who have been hurt or family members of passengers who have been killed in foreign countries. Local and international law would cover pilot error and equipment failure caused by faulty maintenance. If a spare part was at fault, Cessna or a subcontractor that made the part may be vulnerable to a civil action.

One possible avenue the family could explore would be to sue the tour operator if it is located in the United States. This approach may be tricky, depending on applicable state law and the safety record of Air Excel. If the carrier had a spotty safety record, the family could have tried to suggest that the tour operator knew or should have known this. However, the accident in question is only the second in the airline’s history. The last took place in 2004 and also resulted in zero fatalities.

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