Thursday, October 22, 2015

Teenager sues pilot over ferris wheel plane crash which has left her with fear of show rides: Morgan Aeroworks Cheetah Sierra 200, 24-7634

A teenage girl who was on a ferris wheel when a light plane crashed into it is suing the festival, the council and the pilot for psychological harm saying she now has an intense fear of show-rides and has even attempted suicide.

Amber Arndell, then 13, was seated with her little brother Jessie, then 9, when a Morgan Aeroworks Cheetah Sierra 200 crashed into the ferris wheel close to their gondola, at the Old Bar Beach Festival, on the mid-north coast on October 1, 2011.

The children weren’t physically harmed in the freak crash but they remained trapped in their gondola for hours in the cold until they were eventually rescued by crane.

The pilot Paul Cox, 54 and his 32-year-old son-in-law John Rowan amazingly survived the crash and were rescued with minor injuries.

Ms. Arndell, now 18, has lodged a claim for up to $750,000 in damages in the Sydney District Court against the Old Bar Beach Festival for allowing the ferris wheel to be erected close to the airstrip where Mr. Cox was attempting to land his plane. She is also suing Greater Taree Council, for approving the event, and Mr. Cox for failing to observe and operate the plane to avoid the ferris wheel.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cox is suing the council, the festival and the Old Bar Heritage Airport Management Committee, while Mr. Rowan is suing his father-in-law and the festival.

Ms. Arndell’s lawyer, Justin Stack said his client was struggling to cope following the accident.

“Amber has had a really hard time since the accident she suffers from depression, anxiety, has panic attacks and is struggling to get on with her life after what happened. Some sort of compensation is definitely owed to her,” he said.

The Statement of Claim says the ferris wheel was set up 161m south of the center line of the airstrip, and “infringed into the obstacle clearance area for take-off and landings” as set out by the Australian Civil Aviation Authority.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau concluded Mr. Cox was not skilled enough for the environment he was flying in.

The ATSB also found that the Old Bar Beach Festival Committee was ineffective in managing the risk of aviation operation at the event.

The report says since the crash the festival and airstrip committee have agreed to suspend flights during the festival.

The three civil suits were adjourned until February 25 for further directions.

- Source:

What happened:

On 1 October 2011, the pilot of a Morgan Aero Works Cheetah Sierra 200 aircraft (Sierra), registered 24-7634, was attempting to land at the Old Bar Airstrip after conducting a private flight from Taree Airport, New South Wales.

The pilot commenced a go-around after touching down. During the climb out the aircraft collided with a ferris wheel that was part of a group of amusements located at a beach festival, adjacent and to the south of the airstrip.

There were two persons on board the Sierra and four occupants of the ferris wheel at the time of the collision. There were no reported injuries from the occupants of the ferris wheel, and the passenger in the Sierra reported receiving a minor injury.

What the ATSB found:

The ATSB found that the management of risk in relation to flight training operations by Recreational Aviation Australia Incorporated (RA-Aus) was adequate; however, it had been circumvented in a number of areas during the training of the pilot. That resulted in a pilot operating in the aviation environment who did not possess the required competencies to exercise the privileges of a private pilot certificate.

The ATSB also found that the approach to the management of risk by the Old Bar Beach Festival Committee, specifically relating to aviation operations at the beach festival, was ineffective and resulted in a level of risk that had the potential to impact on the objectives of the festival.
What's been done as a result

RA-Aus have taken steps to ensure that the flight training facility that undertook the pilot’s training and its staff are aware of the requirements imposed upon them by the RA-Aus Operations Manual, and that RA-Aus staff at the facility have the required skills and knowledge to carry out flight training operations. The pilot underwent a flight review that established the need for additional training.

The festival and airstrip committees reported that in future the airstrip will be closed and aviation operations suspended when the festival is taking place.

Safety message:

The management of risk in aviation requires diligence and structure to be effective. In particular, when aviation activities are part of a public event the supporting procedures, processes and guidelines need to be carefully developed and applied to manage risk to those choosing to participate in the aviation environment and to others external to the aviation activity.


  1. Seems judgements have already been made by the media and it hasnt gone to trial yet.

  2. Sad to see Old Bar following in the steps of Americans who "sue at the drop of a hat". The festival brings lots of tourists and income to the area - good one those who now jeopardise this. SHAME!