Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sierra Leone Government To Prosecute Paramount Airlines

African Carrier Is On EU Blacklist

Paramount Airlines has operated safely in Sierra Leone for more than five years -- but the government of the West African country is determined to prosecute the carrier following a helicopter crash earlier this month, killing a 20-member Togolese sports delegation and the two Russian pilots.

Fredrick Carew, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone told reporters Monday that "the proprietors and management of Paramount Airlines, owners of the killer helicopter that crashed beyond recognition at the Lungi International Airport resulting in the death of Togolese nationals and two Russians, may be charged to court for negligence".

As ANN reported, the Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter was taking the group of soccer fans from the small West African country of Togo -- as well as the Togolese Minister for Youth and Sports Richard Attipoe -- to the Lungi International Airport when it went down in the country's capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah grounded all commercial helicopters in response and suspended the country's transport minister after the accident. The Mi-8 reportedly caught fire while descending to land.

"Even when it is proven that the helicopter has an insurance cover and has gone through mandatory tests, if a case of negligence is suspected, then the Law Office will take action by charging the management of the helicopter company to court.

"Again, where it is proven that the accident could have been avoided if the management had taken precautionary action, then the Law Office will take action by charging the management of the helicopter company to court," Carew said.

According to the BBC, the accident helicopter had been grounded previously after it failed safety checks. Paramount Airlines is on the list of African airlines banned from operating within the European Union due to safety concerns.

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