Helicopter crash ends in lawsuit

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

A dispute has erupted between Tsumeb businessman, Rainier Arangies and founder of Namibia Base Aviation (NBA),  Schalk Nel, over a helicopter worth N$18 million, which belonged to Arangies.

The helicopter in question was involved in an accident, in which it was destroyed beyond economic repair. The 49-year-old pilot Frans Henning narrowly escaped death after the privately owned helicopter crash landed at the Tsumeb airstrip in March 2020.

The helicopter was allegedly chartered by NBA based in Swakopmund for the purpose of spraying bushes at a farm situated a few kilometres from the airstrip.

According to documents filed in the Windhoek High Court, Arangies, who is citing Nel, Henning and NBA as the first, second and third respondents is demanding payment of N$18 315 787.10 for the damaged helicopter.

Arangies who is famous for his castle situated at Tsumeb’s entrance also owns Expedite Aviation CC and Auto Tech Namibia, located in the northern town.

The dispute arose after Nel, Henning and NBA entered into a written lease agreement in March 2020 for the lease of the helicopter. The aircraft was valued at its retail value of US$1 125 000 000,00, and its international wholesale value amounted to US$990 000,00, court documents say.

“From time to time the Lessee requires the use of certain aircraft and the Lessor has agreed to lease such aircraft to the Lessee, where the Lessor will only provide aircraft as is per day rate, whereas Lessee will bear all operational, maintenance, insurance and any other direct or indirect implied cost but lessor will be responsible for components (parts only) when remaining time status is expired,”the aircraft lease agreement reads.

According to the agreement, the aircraft was leased to Nel at his risk and he was responsible for its safe operation and insurance coverage in the event of an accident or incident giving rise to a claim of any kind during the lease period.

“During the lease, the lessee shall obtain, maintain and keep in full force and effect the following insurance protection. In the event of an accident or incident giving rise to a claim of any kind under the aircraft’s insurance policies referred to above and in the event that the aircraft’s insurance declined to indemnify the lessor for such a claim due to a breach by the lessee of any insurance requirements and obligations, be they contractual, statutory or common law, then in these circumstances the lessee accepts full responsibility and liability to indemnify the lessor direct for any loss or damage so caused to the lessor including but not limited to damage to the lessor’s aircraft and any liability the lessor may attract in consequence of claims made by any third party,” read the agreement.

However, Arangies is claiming that Nel fell short of the amount of insurance required by the agreement as it was in Namibian dollars and not US dollars.

“When the plaintiff made enquiries with the lessees about the insurance of the helicopter, he was informed that Minet Namibia Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd had issued an “Aviation-Cover Note, Hull, War and Liability Risks” to the lessees, stating and confirming that the helicopter was insured for the period of 20 February 2020 to 31 August 2020, for a value of N$10 million. The agreement however required that the insurance had to be effected for an amount sounding in US dollars, and not Namibian dollars,” claimed Arangies. Arangies is claiming the helicopter was valued at US$1 125 000 000,00 and not N$10 million which is equivalent to US$560 852.50.

NBA has since given notice of its intention to defend the action filed by Arangies.

All respondents have been ordered by the court file plea and counterclaims on or before 25 April and the case has been postponed to the 6 of June for meditation.

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