Friday, February 5, 2016

We Didn't Promise to Fix Plane Crash Shack - Ekurhuleni: Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six, ZS-PME, Sky Africa

The City of Ekurhuleni had no obligation to fix a family shack which was split open after being hit by an aircraft which crashed in Wattville, Benoni, earlier this week, the office of Mayor Mondli Gungubele said.

Spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said they had made no promises to fix Cebisile Zulu's shack after it was reportedly struck by the wing of the plane as it went down and burst into flames just metres from her house on Wednesday morning.

"We have not committed to anything," Dlamini told News24 on Thursday afternoon.

"We need to investigate the extent of the damage and see what we can do as a city but we have made no commitments. You must remember that this thing was not our doing," Dlamini said.

On Wednesday, just hours after the aircraft had gone down, News24 visited Zulu at her shack.


Promised Help

A piece of the shattered plane was still on her roof and one side of the shack was broken. The area surrounding the shack had been taped off by investigators.

News24 spoke to Zulu as her toddler child crawled around on the sand under the tape.

She said although she was sad her shack had been damaged in the crash, she was comforted by the fact that people of the City had promised to come back and help her fix it before nightfall.

She stood at the fence of the shack during the afternoon, waiting for the promised help.

But by Wednesday night, no one had come back.

She was forced to seek shelter from a neighbour for her and her two children.

When News24 contacted her on Thursday afternoon, she said she had spent the day at home, waiting for someone to come to their aid.

"I haven't made any phone calls because the people who promised they would come back never left their names or their numbers," she said.

"And the person who offered us accommodation [on Wednesday] said it was only for one night."

She burst into tears when News24 informed her that Dlamini said fixing the shack was not their responsibility.

"I have no idea what this means for me and my children. I don't know where I am going to sleep tonight," she said.

Cause of crash unclear

The aircraft crashed with three passengers on board - a pilot and an Austrian couple - all in their 60s.

It was headed for Mokgopong in Limpopo when it crashed a few minutes after take-off.

It landed on a field in the middle of Wattville township which was used as a netball court and soccer pitch for local children.

Locals rushed to the scene, tried to douse the flames and pulled the passengers out of the wreckage. All three, however, died on the scene.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Original article can be found here:

Federal judge rules against Lufthansa in restoration pay lawsuit

A federal judge ruled this week that a Texas mechanic who worked on restoring a vintage airplane in Auburn can move forward with his effort to recover wages on a dual track — under state and federal law — against the company that owned the plane and the company that hired him to restore it.
A year ago, U.S. Chief District Judge Nancy Torresen allowed Christopher Venegas, 46, of Wichita Falls to invite other mechanics who worked on the project with him to join his lawsuit under federal law. Venegas came to Maine three years ago to work as an air frame mechanic at a hangar at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

At issue is whether Venegas and his co-workers should have been paid as independent contractors, as the defendants in his complaint contend, or as employees, who were entitled to overtime pay, as Venegas argues.

In his complaint, filed in June 2014 in U.S. District Court in Portland, Venegas claimed he was paid straight time for all hours worked, including those in excess of 40 per week. According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid overtime wages at a rate of time-and-a-half for any hours exceeding 40 per week, the complaint said.

Venegas, and most of the other dozens of workers on the project, were paid only straight time despite working 63½-hour weeks on average, as required by the companies that hired them, according to the complaint.

Venegas was hired by Global Aircraft Service of Addison, Texas, which controlled, along with Lufthansa Technik North America Holding Corp. of Tulsa, the restoration of the "Star of Tigris," a version of the Lockheed Constellation known as a Starliner, Lufthansa Airline's flagship aircraft from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Global Aircraft and Lufthansa are co-defendants named in Venegas' lawsuit.

In a Feb. 5, 2015, ruling, Torresen granted Venegas' motion to certify the suit as a collective action under federal law, meaning other similarly situated metal specialists who worked on the aircraft between June 24, 2011, and Feb. 5, could join his lawsuit under a so-called "opt-in" clause.

In her 2015 ruling, Torresen also ordered Venegas' former employer to provide the names and contact information of the other workers to Venegas' attorneys in an effort to ensure that all of the workers who want to be included can participate. A notice of Venegas' claim, and that option for other workers, was required to be posted at the job site, Torresen had ruled.

Now, a year after that decision, Torresen has ruled that Venegas' complaint can move forward under Maine law as a class action, meaning all of his co-workers will be notified that they have been included in his claim unless they exercise an "opt-out" clause.

Both the state and federal claims are aimed at recovering back wages owed for overtime, said Nicholas Woodfield, Venegas' attorney with The Employment Law Group in Washington, D.C. The state law has a longer statute of limitations, he said, potentially enabling more workers to become part of the lawsuit.

Torresen also ruled this week against the defendants' motion to rescind the federal certification of a collective action that allowed Venegas' fellow workers to sign on to his lawsuit.

Asked for comment, Woodfield said Friday, “Mr. Venegas and his co-workers take pride in their work on this plane. They worked long hours for several years to make it great again, and when GAS and LTNA called them independent contractors, it took away from what they had built, day-by-day, year-by-year. They wanted their role to be acknowledged, and now they are one step closer.”

A spokesman for Lufthansa could not be reached for comment.

Woodfield said he believes between 50 and 130 others participated in the project as sheet metal workers who could potentially become plaintiffs in Venegas' complaint.

Venegas, who was married with four children, moved to Maine in February 2013 where he was housed in a local apartment by the company. He was ordered to wear a company-supplied T-shirt and use company email addresses for work-related correspondence, according to court papers. The company did not withhold Social Security or taxes from his paychecks.

Original article can be found here: