“The Ferris wheel accident was due to the council’s negligence and left me with psychiatric injuries.” Which case won?
Declaration of interest: the author and Stacks Law Firm acted for the plaintiff in this case.
Plaintiff attends festival held on council land
On 1 October 2011, a girl who was almost 14 at the time attended a festival on the mid-north coast of NSW with her family.
For many years, this annual event has been one of the major community events, bringing thousands of people to the small coastal town.
The local council approved the festival, which was held on land administered by the council.
Council operates adjacent airstrip and allows planes to land during festival
The council also controlled the airstrip adjacent to the land where the festival was being held.
The airstrip had a single grass runway. As was usual, light aircraft would fly in and land at the airstrip during the festival.
The council operated the airstrip via a delegation to an airstrip committee.
The purpose of the delegation was to operate the airstrip within the area fenced for such purpose while meeting the standards provided in Civil Aviation Advisory Publication 92-1(1) (“CAAP 92-1(1)”).
CAAP 92-1(1) set out factors that could be used to determine the suitability of a place for landing and taking off. It was not a legal requirement to comply with this, but compliance would ensure that regulatory requirements were met.
Guidance on keeping splay free from obstacles for taking off and landing
CAAP 92-1(1) included guidance regarding keeping the area known as the splay free of obstacles, such as buildings and tall trees, so as not to impede aircraft taking off and landing.
The splay is the area of three-dimensional space including, and extending from, the runway, through which an aircraft may travel when taking off and landing.
The council gave approval to a Ferris wheel that had been erected by its operator adjacent to the end of the runway.
The location approved by council was within the splay.
Pilot crashes plane into Ferris wheel, trapping plaintiff and her brother
The plaintiff and her brother went on the Ferris wheel.
Unfortunately, while they were on it, a light aircraft attempted a landing.
The pilot was too far along the airstrip, so he aborted his landing to go around to make another attempt.
This attempt went horribly wrong and the pilot crashed his plane into the Ferris wheel, trapping the girl and her brother.
Fortunately and miraculously, they did not sustain any physical injuries. However, the girl suffered psychiatric injuries and sued the council for negligence.