An old Kasho demanding accountability and a new agreement to escape it

On 3rd, March 2023 a helicopter crashed in Wachey Lunana killing two passengers. The final investigation puts the blame on human error with contributing factors like a senior pilot not adhering to the roster, bad attitude of the senior pilot, working environment, relations between pilots and no supervision by seniors and the management.

This paper has already pointed to the above issues in early January 2023 but Druk Air did not pay heed.

While the pilot who crashed the plane was let go there is no action against the senior pilot and others.

There is also no accountability for Druk Air hiding the insurance amount due to Gyem Gyeltshen for the death of his wife and daughter and instead pushing him to meet the HFW legal representative who was offering peanuts.

In a contrast of the times and the management style The Bhutanese has firstly accessed a 1993 Kasho from His Majesty The Fourth King issued on 7th October to the Minister of Communication focused on the safety of Druk Air and resultant accountability if a crash happens.

In sharp contrast The Bhutanese gained access to the document that the Bhutanese lawyer representing Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) offered to Gyem Gyeltshen to sign in exchange for the USD 20,000 with USD 10,000 each for his wife and child. Apart from offering him a much lower amount than he is due the document essentially aims to remove accountability from all parties involved in the crash.

The Kasho

The 1993 Kasho says, “Till this day, by the grace of our god and due to the blessings of our guardian deities, Druk Air has remained safe. Henceforth, it is important for Druk Air to take care of the passengers and to serve our country continuously. The choice to send or withhold the plane should not be influenced by daily schedules and urgency of matters since the airport at Paro is very small, surrounded by high mountains and as it is risky during bad weather.”

“The pilot and all the employees should work according to the standard aviation operating procedures, and safety and security regulations, without negligence. After the landing, the engineers and mechanics should check the machines and repair wherever necessary with care and promptness. Therefore, the rules of co-ordination and reminders for the above persons should not only be on paper, but the Minister of Communication, Director of Druk Air and Director of Security and Investigation of the Druk Air should see to it that the work is done properly.”

The Kasho goes on to say, “If Druk Air meets an accident for the reason that you have acted in contravention to the above regulations and this decree, the risk to the lives of all the passengers lies on the Ministry of Communication and the concerned officials, without exemption. Therefore, you must keep these things in mind and follow them properly from the very beginning.”

The Kasho is very clear on the need for safety and it places the accountability on the relevant officials named above.

The document

HFW is the Singaporean law firm hired by the foreign reinsurance companies, offering USD 20,000 as compensation instead of the USD 400,000 due to Gyem Gyeltshen for the death of his wife and child in the helicopter crash.

Gyem said the HFW representative told him USD 20,000 is all he would get but  he later learnt the actual insurance is higher.

The document given by HFW to Gyem is named the ‘release and discharge document’ from Gyem Gyeltshen to RICBL, the Reinsurers who insured the chopper and passengers, Druk Air, Airbus helicopters and Safran helicopter engines releasing and discharging them in return for the compensation.

The document is an effort to remove any liability from all of the above, people and those with ownership interest, financial interest, lenders, lessors, insurers, reinsurers, directors, staff associated companies, contractors and their companies, shareholders, those who provided training, Druk Air staff or anyone else which may have a liability or responsibility for the accident.

It fully and irrevocably releases and discharges the above from any and all liability, claims, actions, damages, obligations, demands, expenses, interests and costs (including legal costs) in law whatsoever and howsoever arising under the laws of the Kingdom of Bhutan or any other jurisdiction which may exist now or in the future whether known or unknown, connected with or arising out of the accident or the deaths of his wife Dresang Dema and daughter Nima Peday.

It says the Releasees who are all of the above have agreed to make an offer of final compensation in the amount of USD 20,000 to the claimant which the claimant has agreed.

However, in reality the Gyem has refused to sign the agreement.

It says it is the desire of the parties that an agreement be reached on the terms set out below in order to resolve in a definite and final manner and to bring an indisputable and absolute end to all claims and disputes in respect of any and all losses which have been suffered or could be suffered by the claimant as a direct or indirect consequence of the accident and the deaths of Dresang and Nima.

The document says that since the occurrence of the accident the claimant has already received from or on behalf of Druk Air a sum of USD 7,305 in respect of funeral expenses for Dresang and Nima and a cash advance to the claimant and this in addition to the USD 20,000 will be the full and final settlement.

Here Gyem said that Druk Air had given him Nu 100,000 which he thought was semso and they flew in a Lam for the rituals which he thought was for free and he never knew either amounts were being given to him as a part of the insurance pay out.

The agreement says that the claimant accepts and understands that the compensation is the only payment the claimant will receive from the Releasees and that it is made in exchange for the claimant’s undertaking not to pursue any further claims or institute any litigation in any jurisdiction in connection with the accident or regarding the sufficiency of the compensation.

It says the payment of the compensation does not constitute an admission of liability by Druk Air and or any of the Releasees.

The agreement also says the terms of the agreement are strictly confidential.

Gyem did not sign the agreement.

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