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Plane crash’s injured passengers sue airline

Crews attend to a plane crash at the foot of a Vancouver International Airport runway in Richmond, B.C. on Oct. 27, 2011.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Six of seven passengers pulled from the fiery wreckage of a commuter plane that crashed on a busy Richmond, B.C., road are suing the airline.

Documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday reveal the six passengers are seeking compensation for injuries suffered in October 2011 when the Northern Thunderbird aircraft burst into flames after crashing just metres from the runway.

The lawsuit claims that as the plaintiffs and other passengers boarded the flight, a number of them noticed the presence of oil under the aircraft wing and reported that to the crew.

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"The flight crew continued the boarding process and the aircraft departed for Kelowna," the notice of civil claim says.

"Shortly after takeoff, the captain announced that the aircraft would be returning to YVR due to an oil issue. At this point, the passengers could see oil streaming from the left engine of the King Air 100 and onto the wing."

However, the crew did not declare an emergency and proceeded to try to land at YVR, the lawsuit says.

A Transportation Safety Board official said after the crash that the plane slammed into a lamppost and hit a car before slamming onto the road and catching fire.

"The accident and the plaintiffs' injuries and losses were caused by the negligence of [Northern Thunderbird] Air and the flight crew," the lawsuit says.

It says the airline and the crew operated the plane with a known oil leak and no electrical cutoff switch to reduce the risk of a post-crash fire.

The suit also says the airline failed to adequately train the crew to operate an aircraft under reduced engine power.

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The two pilots, Luc Fortin and Matt Robic, were rescued but later died of their injuries.

Good Samaritans from nearby offices and passing cars helped save the passengers' lives by pulling them from the burning plane as the terrifying scene unfolded.

The five men and one woman who filed the lawsuit claim they suffered various injuries ranging from fractures of the spine, sternum and ribs to paralysis.

A female passenger who was also injured in the crash did not join the lawsuit.

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