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JUBA - 6 Aug 2023

Pieri plane crash: Court upholds verdict, confirms compensation

Court session at Malakia High Court on 24 February 2023. [Photo: Radio Tamazuj]
Court session at Malakia High Court on 24 February 2023. [Photo: Radio Tamazuj]

The Kator High Court in Juba has upheld the decision of the Malakia County Court in a May appeal, reaffirming an order that requires South Supreme Airlines to provide compensation to the families of the victims who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash that occurred in Pieri town, Uror County, Jonglei State, in 2021.

The ill-fated incident took place on March 2, 2021, when a South Supreme Airline Let aircraft, registered as HK-4274, crashed moments after take-off in Pieri, resulting in the loss of 10 lives, including two crew members.

Since that tragic event, the families of the victims have been entangled in a legal battle, seeking restitution through blood compensation.

In a notable turn of events this year, the Malakia County Court ruled in February that South Supreme Airlines was liable to pay $170,000 USD to each victim’s family. This verdict was reached after the company was found to be in breach of negligence, as outlined in Article 17 of the Montreal Protocol.

However, the timeline took a twist on May 23, as Judge Nicola Makuach Bol of the Kator High Court issued a stay of execution order, urging the Malakia Court to suspend its decision until the defendant’s appeal could be heard.

August 1 marked the issuance of a decisive ruling on the appeal by Judge Makuach Bol, wherein the Kator High Court upheld the initial decision of the lower court, validating the need for compensation to be provided to the families of the crash victims. Nevertheless, Judge Makuach Bol opted to reduce the amount owed in compensation for each victim, settling at a sum of $100,000 USD.

In response to this verdict, Monyluak Alor Kuol, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, expressed his appreciation, stating, “The ruling on the appeal was made on August 1. The judge of the High Court just adjusted the value of the compensation from 175,000 to 100,000 USD, while the other orders of the court remain the same. So, these families will still get compensated.”

Kuol further elaborated, saying, “The file has gone back to Malakia Court and so next we will apply for the execution of the order.”

Reacting to the long-awaited ruling, Makuei Puok Bai, a spokesperson for the affected families, conveyed a sense of relief. “As the affected families, we held consultations and reached a consensus to accept the compensation awarded to us by the appeal court for our lost loved ones. This case has endured for two years, and thus, we find contentment in this ruling. Now, we eagerly await the implementation of the court order, scheduled for August 10,” Bai emphasized.

Despite efforts to solicit a response from South Supreme Airlines regarding the verdict, all attempts proved unfruitful.