Twenty holidaymakers from Northern Ireland suffered a terrifying mid-air drama after their plane was enveloped by darkness and descended rapidly following a near-miss at 30,000 feet.
The Boeing 737 was carrying tourists home from a sun holiday in Gran Canaria when it partially fell out of the sky in 2000, a court in the Republic heard yesterday.
“The Futura Airlines jet was involved in what was described as a near-miss and almost crashed on its return trip from Las Palmas |airport to Dublin,” barrister Paul McGarry said in the Circuit Civil Court.
Mr McGarry told Judge Matthew Deery that following the near mid-air collision the plane |seriously malfunctioned, resulting in a series of bangs and flashes which caused a middle-of-the-night cabin blackout at more than 30,000 feet.
He said the plane had been plunged into darkness and terrified passengers endured 90 minutes of severe trauma, anxiety and shock on board the blacked out airliner as it burned off fuel in a terrifying descent to a safe emergency landing at Tenerife.
The passengers were put up overnight in a hotel in Tenerife and flown home the following day.
A group of 20 holidaymakers from Northern Ireland were among the 100-plus passengers, all of whom had booked their package holidays through Panorama Holiday Group Ltd whose headquarters are at College Green, Dublin.
Mr McGarry told the Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Deery, that claims for up to €38,000 compensation each had been taken by the Northern Ireland passengers, 19 of whom had accepted undisclosed settlement offers.
The mid-air drama, which took place nine years ago on the night of July 29, 2000, might have remained a tightly guarded secret but for the fact that two-year-old Sonnie Boyce, of Cullingtree Road, Belfast, was among the passengers.
Through his parents Brenda and John, his claim for damages as a minor had to be approved by the court and the story of the miracle mishap had to be outlined before a judge.
Mr McGarry said Panorama Holiday Group had offered Sonnie €2,500 compensation and he was recommending the courts approval of the settlement considering he had been a babe-in-arms at the time and had suffered practically no psychiatric distress from the incident.
Judge Deery, approving the settlement, said the experience had been a very frightening one for passengers.
It is believed the €38,000 compensation claims of other passengers were settled in the region of from €10,000 to €15,000 and costs in each case. The court did not hear of what had occurred to claims by holidaymakers from the Republic of Ireland. Most likely all were similarly settled.
The Northern Irish group consisted of Mr and Mrs Boyce and their sons Sonnie, now aged 11, and Liam (18); Ann and Ivan Bailey, Magherdoherty Road, Market Hill, Co Armagh; Trevor and Diane McClinchie, Drumart Road, Tandragee, Co Antrim; Stephen Toland, Altan Grove, Belfast; Paul Cunningham, Old Colin, Poleglass, Co Antrim; Colum McCann, Old Colin; Brendan Dornan, Glenwood, Poleglass; Terry Quinn, Gardenmore Road, Belfast; Gerard Chapman, Old Colin; Sean McManus, no address given; Sean Donnelly, Lough Rea, Short Strand, Belfast; Gavin Irvine, Old Colin; Gareth Delargey, Old Colin; Gerard O'Hagan, Old Colin and Seamus Lowe, Glenkeen, Poleglass, Co Antrim.
Mr McGarry told the court to strike out their cases as all of them had been settled.