Pretoria - In the aftermath of a plane crash in Tripoli, Libya, nearly three years ago in which 103 passengers on board Afriqiyah Airways were killed, the airline has in a settlement agreed to pay $1.4 million (R12.9m) to a Stellenbosch woman whose husband died in the crash.
Ilse Matthee claimed the compensation in the Pretoria High Court for damages she had suffered in her personal capacity following the death of her husband, Anton, and on behalf of her two children, aged 18 and 14.
Afriqiyah Airways entered into a lengthy and complicated settlement agreement with Matthee. The airline made it clear that this would be a final settlement on its part for the events of May 12, 2010, as far as it related to Matthee. It was also made clear in the agreement that the airline was not agreeing to pay this money to Matthee as an admission of liability, as it was still denying any wrongdoing.
The amount offered to, and accepted by, Matthee include certain legal costs she had incurred.
Judge Joseph Raulinga this week ruled the agreement fair and in the best interests of Matthee’s two children, Inge and Anya.
Anton Matthee, a businessman, was one of the 93 passengers and 11 crew on board the airbus on that fateful day en route from OR Tambo International Airport to Tripoli Airport. The aircraft crashed when it approached the runway in Tripoli.
The events made headlines at the time, especially as there was only one survivor - then nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw from Tilbury in the Netherlands. He was returning with his parents from a safari and a wedding in South Africa.
The Libyan plane crashed minutes before landing after a seven-hour flight from OR Tambo.
Matthee settled the matter in South Africa with the airline, but further legal proceedings pertaining to the crash are due to follow in America.
In a statement before court, Matthee said it was necessary to obtain this order as the aircraft’s insurers had been advised by American lawyers that an American court would require an “infant settlement” on behalf of her children - which must be approved by a South African court.
Matthee that said at the time of his death, her husband worked for Vestech SA Ltd and was travelling to Dubai via Tripoli for work.
He was the main breadwinner and his death left her and her children without his support, she said.
The cause of the accident is subject to an official investigation, which is still ongoing. It is not known when the final accident report will be released. The relevance of this report is that if there was some defect in the manufacturing of the aircraft, it would permit a claim against the manufacturer.
But Matthee said she was advised to issue summons against the aircraft company and its insurers in South Africa, as the claim was about to lapse.
The reason why the aircraft’s insurers needed the settlement agreement to be recognised and enforceable in the US was because the manufacturer of the aircraft had been sued in a court in Illinois.
Matthee said there was a risk that they might add the airline to that litigation, but this was no longer possible in the light of the settlement for her and her children.
Matthee said the settlement also ensured that she would not incur substantial legal costs abroad while waiting for “what will undoubtedly be lengthy litigation” in America.