Spotlight is suing the owner of a plane that crashed into a Melbourne shopping shopping centre, killing five people on board, for more than $7 million.
Pliot Max Quartermain crashed shortly after take-off as he flew four American passengers on a golfing holiday from Essendon Airport to King Island on February 21, 2017.
Spotlight is seeking almost $7 million from the Bendigo company that owns the plane. It is also seeking lost earnings for the eight months its Essendon DFO store was out of action for repairs, according to a Supreme Court writ.
The company says the crash ignited a fire and caused the building’s sprinkler system to activate, damaging stock, fixtures, fittings and contents.
The writ alleges losses and damages of more than $6.9 million, plus lost opportunity for profits from sales while the fabric and craft retailer operated at reduced capacity.
A string of neighbouring businesses also affected by the crash – Victoria’s worst air disaster for 30 years – are reportedly following suit.
Meanwhile, widows of the passengers who died – Greg Reynolds De Haven, Glenn Garland, Russell Munsch and John Washburn – are expected to pursue potentially millions of dollars in damages against Mr Quarterman’s estate after he was blamed for the tragedy.
In September, an aviation watchdog probe found Mr Quartermain failed to complete pre-takeoff checklists that would have detected the plane’s rudder trim was in nose-left position.
This hampered the Beechcraft King Air aircraft’s ability to ascend and after about 10 seconds of being airborne, it plunged into the DFO shopping centre, killing everyone aboard and causing minor injuries to two people on the ground.
The investigation found no pre-impact faults with the plane, which soared 49 metres above ground before it began descending and crashed into the roof of the DFO.
The pilot had five missed opportunities before take-off to realise that the rudder trim, which helps control aircraft movement, was not in the neutral position it should have been.
“This accident and the loss of life of the pilot and four passengers in the view of the ATSB, could have been prevented had a checklist been followed thoroughly prior to take off,” Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood said at the time.