Widow of businessman who died in Andes helicopter crash case wins court case

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Widow wins helicopter crash case
Widow wins helicopter crash case

The widow of a businessman who died in a helicopter crash in the Andes which killed 14 people has won her High Court action against his employers.

Tomas Dusek, 37, was in Peru in June 2012 to visit proposed sites for a hydroelectric complex when the Sikorsky helicopter chartered for the trip crashed into a mountain known as Mama Rosa, with the loss of all 12 passengers and two crew.

Mr Dusek, who was working for independent global markets and financial advisory firm StormHarbour Securities, left a wife Angela and two children, then aged eight and five. Words: PA

Mrs Dusek, of Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, brought a claim against StormHarbour, alleging it was in breach of its duty as employers to provide her husband with a safe place of work, safe equipment and a safe system of working.

In London today, Mr Justice Hamblen ruled in her favour on liability, saying that StormHarbour owed a duty to take reasonable care not to subject Mr Dusek to unnecessary risk in travelling to the site and that it was in breach of its duty in doing nothing to investigate into the safety of the flight.

If StormHarbour had made the safety inquiry which it was required to do in order to make an appropriate risk assessment, it would have instructed Mr Dusek not to go on the flight because of safety concerns, he added.

"In such circumstances, I find that Mr Dusek would not have done so. Although it was suggested that he was sufficiently independent-minded and keen to go on the flight that he would have done so regardless, I find that he would not have done so.

"Although Mr Dusek was prepared to take risks, he did so on a calculated basis. He was also a devoted family man.

"He would not have taken on the risk of this flight in the light of an instruction not to do so from his employer on safety grounds.

"If Mr Dusek had not gone on the flight then he would not have been killed. In all the circumstances I find causation to be proved."

The judge said that Mr Dusek had won a scholarship to Cambridge before going into investment banking and joining StormHarbour in 2009.

A colleague had described him as the most intelligent person he had ever met and he was an "adrenalin junkie", enjoying mountain climbing, skiing and bungee jumping. He was also very much a family man and loved cycling with his children, Isabelle and Max, and dancing with his wife.

After the contested hearing, which was not concerned with damages at this stage, Mrs Dusek said: "Tomas was a wonderful father and a loving and cherished husband.

"When he stepped on board the helicopter as part of his job, we expected and assumed it to be safe, not that he would be putting his life at risk and leaving us devastated by his death. We miss him every hour of every day. My husband's life was thrown away by StormHarbour's disregard for his safety.

"Today's verdict will finally give our family peace that justice has been met for Tom. It is also with pride that I can tell my children that today's decision will hopefully change the way that other employers approach business travel to remote regions of the world, and if that means that even just one less wife, child or parent suffers what we have had to suffer over the last two-and-a-half years, then something positive has come out of this pain."

Sarah Stewart, partner at Stewarts Law LLP, added: "This important ruling makes it crystal clear that an employer is responsible for their employees on business trips with local air operators in remote parts of the world.

"The High Court has confirmed that the practices already adopted by safety-conscious employers should apply across all industries, not just to those operating in the mining and oil and gas sphere. It is now recognised by law that an employer who does nothing to ensure the safety of their employee engaged on their business abroad cannot bury their heads in the sand.

"They have a positive obligation to ensure that they are not sending their employees into danger."

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