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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 6, 1998 - Samoa News)---The children and the estate of a 62-year old (Western) Samoan businesswoman who died in a Polynesian Airlines plane crash almost a year ago are seeking $12 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Samoa-based airline.

The suit was filed Monday in the High Court of American Samoa by the estate of the late Tinei V. Nickel and her four children Elizabeth Betham, Pelenatele Ah Fook, Joseph Nickel and Ivale Nickel.

The Polynesian Airlines Twin Otter aircraft crashed into a hillside in the Moamoa District of Apia, Samoa on January 7, 1997, killing three of the five people on board, including Mrs. Nickel, the pilot and the grandfather of a five-year old girl that survived.

According to the suit, "The events resulting in Mrs. Nickel’s death were such that in the ordinary course of things would not have occurred and Polynesian Airlines had the sole and exclusive possession and custody of the aircraft and is in possession of superior, if not exclusive, access to information concerning the precise cause of the events which killed Mrs. Nickel."

The Nickel family’s suit further alleges several instances of specific negligence on Polynesian Airline’s part:

Because of Mrs. Nickel’s death, the suit alleges, "her dependents and family have forever lost the benefit and advantage of the society, comfort, protection, and guidance, and maintenance and support of them.

They have suffered, and will continue to suffer, extreme mental pain and anguish because of the death. [They] have [also] incurred funeral and other expenses incidental thereto in a sum to be determined at trial."

At the time of her death, according to the suit, "Mrs. Nickel had been in good health and in possession of all faculties, and worked daily as a professional businesswoman, as a produce wholesaler, earning substantial income."

The suit divides the $12 million it is seeking this way: $3 million for Mrs. Nickel’s estate, $3 million for the four children, and $6 million in punitive damages.

The airline’s local station manager, Vaito’a Hans Langkilde, declined to comment on the suit as he has not yet seen it and referred all questions to the airline’s corporate headquarters in Apia.

However, he expressed surprise that the suit was filed in American Samoa rather than in Apia since Mrs. Nickel was a citizen of the Independent State.

Polynesian Airlines announced two weeks ago that they might hold a memorial service marking the one year anniversary of the crash.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to .

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