UK Securities Company Liable for Banker’s Death in Helicopter Crash

By Jeremy Hodges | January 20, 2015

StormHarbour Securities LLP is liable for the 2012 death of an employee who died when a helicopter crashed into the Andes mountains in Peru, killing 14 people, a London judge ruled.

The securities firm was in breach of its duty of care to Tomas Dusek by doing “nothing to investigate into the safety of the proposed helicopter flight,” Judge Nicholas Hamblen said in a ruling today. “If Mr. Dusek had not gone on the flight, then he would not have been killed.”

Dusek, who had worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG over his career, was flying with Peruvian clients of StormHarbour on a site survey in pursuit of a joint $1.62 billion project to install five water turbine generators on the Inambari River in the southeastern state of Puno.

At trial, StormHarbour denied any responsibility for Dusek’s death. Also on board were senior employees of Samsung C&T Corp. and Korea Engineering Consultants Corp., according to court documents.

Dusek, a 37-year-old father of two, got on a helicopter that was “flying an inherently dangerous route,” in bad weather “by a pilot who had previously killed two other people in a crash” in the mountain range, a lawyer for Dusek’s widow said at the trial last year.

‘Thrown Away’

“My husband’s life was thrown away by StormHarbour’s disregard for his safety,” Dusek’s widow, Angela Dusek, said in an e-mailed statement. “I can tell my children that today’s decision will hopefully change the way that other employers approach business travel to remote regions of the world, and if that means that even just one less wife, child or parent suffers what we have had to suffer over the last two and a half years, then something positive has come out of this pain.”

StormHarbour declined to comment on the ruling through an external public relations firm.

The ruling was only on liability and no damages were awarded at this stage of the case.

The helicopter crashed at an altitude above 16,000 feet, flying between Mazuco and Cusco when it got into difficulty because of a combination of deteriorating weather and poor decision making from the pilots, according to the ruling.

Under U.K. law, companies have a duty “to their employees to take reasonable care for their physical safety,” Hamblen said in the ruling.

Safety Grounds

“Although Mr. Dusek was prepared to take risks, he did so on a calculated basis,” Hamblen said. “He was also a devoted family man. He would not have taken on the risk of this flight in the light of an instruction not to do so from his employer on safety grounds.”

StormHarbour, with headquarters in London and New York, was founded in 2009 by former Citigroup Inc. fixed-income executives Antonio Cacorino and Fredrick Chapey.

The case is Dusek & Ors v StormHarbour Securities LLP in the U.K. High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, case no. HQ13X01367

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