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Catherine Holman’s spouse sues airline

Suit alleges Seair Seaplanes and pilot were negligent

Catherine Holman was well loved in Vancouver's queer community. She died in November 2009 in a floatplane crash that killed six. Credit: Shaira Holman photo

The spouse of queer activist Catherine Holman, who died in a floatplane crash on Nov 29, 2009, near Saturna Island, has filed a damages suit against the airline and its pilot.

Holman was well known for her activities in the community, including her work as a counsellor at Vancouver’s Three Bridges clinic and her contributions to the Guidelines for Transgender Care and Care for Transgender Adolescents, considered to be the benchmark on best practices internationally.

According to the suit filed May 4 in BC Supreme Court by Shaira Holman, Catherine Holman was trapped inside the de Havilland Beaver aircraft operated by Seair Seaplanes Ltd when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Lyall Harbour, killing six people on board.

Shaira Holman filed the suit against the Surrey, BC-based airline on her behalf and that of Catherine Holman’s parents, Peter and Lois White of Williams Lake, BC.

The suit alleges that pilot Francois St Pierre attempted a takeoff with a tailwind but when that failed, headed into the wind. “Once airborne, the aircraft could not climb above the surrounding terrain on Saturna Island,” the suit says. “As the pilot turned the aircraft to the left, it stalled and collided with the water near the north shore of the harbour. The aircraft quickly filled with water and sank.”

The suit says the impact deformed the fuselage, jamming the right cockpit door next to which Catherine Holman was sitting.

“She survived the impact but was unable to escape the sinking aircraft. She drowned as a result,” the suit says, alleging 26 points of negligence on the part of the airline and pilot.

Seair Seaplanes president Peter Clarke would not comment on the suit.

Shaira Holman and the Whites are seeking general and special damages, but the suit does not specify a monetary value. None of its allegations has been proven in court.