Pilot in deadly China crash appeals prison term

Updated: 2014-12-26 14:19


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Pilot in deadly China crash appeals prison term

The pilot of the airplane that crashed in Yichun, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, in 2010 was convicted for misoperation. [Photo/IC]  

HARBIN -- A pilot serving a three-year prison sentence for a 2010 jet crash that killed 44 people has appealed the court's ruling, court officials and the pilot's lawyer said Friday.

Qi Quanjun, captain of an ERJ-190 regional jet that crashed in Yichun, a forested, perennially foggy city in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, filed the appeal on Wednesday, said his lawyer, Zhang Qihuai, from Beijing-based Lanpeng Law Firm.

Yichun Intermediate People's Court confirmed on Friday it had received Qi's plea for an appeal.

A local court in the city's Yichun District sentenced Qi to three years in prison on Dec 19 on misoperation convictions. But his lawyer held that the conviction was made without a thorough probe or adequate evidence, and the penalty was too harsh.

"The court simply copied a report submitted by the State Council's investigation team shortly after the accident, without clarifying the doubts and contradictions that still surround the disaster," said Zhang. "We hope the appeals court will double check facts and mete out more lenient punishment in accordance with the law."

The lawyer said Qi was not the only person responsible for the crash.

An anonymous source with China Airline Pilots' Association said the association also disapproves of the court's ruling, and will seek to protect its members' legitimate rights.

Though he will probably not be authorized to fly again, Qi said he hopes the appeal will better protect the rights of other pilots and subsequently improve China's flight safety. Qi, born in 1970, was captain of a Henan Airlines ERJ-190 jet that flew from the provincial capital Harbin to Yichun.

He was accused of "violating operation rules by attempting to land when visibility at Yichun airport was below safety standards," the prosecution said.

The jet crashed at 9:38 pm on Aug 24, 2010, killing 44, including the co-pilot, and injuring 52.

Instead of evacuating passengers, Qi fled the scene without authorization. The survivors later escaped through the back cabin door, the cockpit window and two cracks in the fuselage, the prosecution said.

Prosecutors also said the crash caused a direct economic loss of 309 million yuan (about $49.8 million).