By William Madouk
The Malakia court in Juba has ordered South Supreme Airline to pay one million three hundred and sixty thousand US Dollars ($1,360,000) or its equivalent in South Sudanese Pound to the families of the eight victims who perished in a plane crash in Pieri of Jonglei State two years ago.
In March 2021, aircraft number HK 4274 belonging to the local carrier, South Supreme Airline crashed shortly after takeoff from an airstrip in Pieri town in Jonglei State, killing at least 10 people on board, two crew members and eight passengers.
On September 24, 2022, the families of the deceased filed a case against the grounded airline demanding compensation for their dear ones after long await without any information from the airline company.
Presiding Judge James Lado on Friday pronounced the final court verdict, directing the local carrier company to pay US$170,000 (SSP22,144,200) to each victim (approx. SSP177,153,600) based on the Montreal Treaty-1999.
“Based on article 17, 21 of Montreal Convention 1999 the victims of Pieri airplane crash are to be compensated with an amount of US$170,000 each (of the) eight victims,” Judge Lado announced.
The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo.
“The accused South Supreme failed to ferry the travelers to their destination which is Juba – according to the contract as the plane got crashed in Pieri town that led to the death of the passengers,” Lado said.
He added that “Article. 17 of MC99 says the airline company is accountable to case of death or injury to passengers in case the incident that led to death or injury occurred on plane.”
South Supreme Airline in the initial court hearing denied the existence of eight passengers in a plane, saying they don’t have office in Pieri nor was the main office alert. But court said manifesto bearing names of victims is a strong proof.
“According to Montreal treaty, the captain on behalf of the airline company has right to take decision at airport that the company doesn’t have office/representative without consent from the said company,” presiding Judge said.
“Section 125 of Evidence law, the court attested that based on witnesses and two documents, its proof that on 2/3/2021 the victims whose names are in the manifesto were on board the plane that took off from Pieri heading to Juba but unfortunately crashed,” Lado explained.
The court also dropped the families’ demands for sums of money lost during the plane crash due to a lack of evidence.
Additionally, Supreme Airline was ordered to pay ten percent to the lawyer who represented the victims as well as appeal against the ruling within 15 days.
However, after the court verdict, the lawyer representing South Supreme Airline refused to comment on the ruling.
Monyluak Alor Kuol, the defense lawyer of the victims’ families said the verdict was ‘just’ and advised the aviation authorities to ensure that planes are airworthy.
“I hope the relevant authorities could be listening to this because it’s very clear that there are so many rules and regulations that are not being observed and if those were to be observed then the airlines could be held accountable any time,” Kuol said.
“This is an eye opener for them they will make sure that the planes are insured and regularly repaired at least to save lives of the people and public,” he added.
Meanwhile, Yuanis Yoal Kai, airstrip manager of Pieri said the judgment now released the stress and trauma the families of victims are living in, adding that shows the ‘independency’ of judiciary system in the Country.
“This ruling is to tell the nation on how to take care of these aircrafts or aviation – they are finishing our people. Though there is a saying ‘a case (justice) delayed is a case (justice) denied’ today it has become different,” he added.
John Kiel Mayoul, who also lost his wife in the incident, said he support the ruling adding that as families of the victims they have been calling for compensation all this long.
South Supreme Airlines is owned by South Sudanese businessman Ayii Duang Ayii.