Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Should pilot have gone to prison? You make the call.
Mark Tayfel is not a bad guy. But he made a terrible error in judgment that had devastating consequences.So should he have gone to prison?That was the difficult question being asked in a Winnipeg courtroom this week as Tayfel was sentenced for his deadly mistake. Ultimately, Queen's Bench Justice Holly Beard ruled Thursday afternoon Tayfel could remain in the community under a conditional sentence. (Read story HERE
)Did she make the right call?Running out of gas when you're driving a car is, at worst, a major inconvenience. Running out of gas when you're flying a plane is, at best, a massive tragedy narrowly avoided.As most of you likely know, Tayfel took a chance with his fuel levels - and lost - while piloting a twin-engine plane in 2002.He then made a bad situation worse by failing to tell anyone on the ground about his problem until it was too late. He also put the lives of many other innocents at risk by flying into Winnipeg - then overshooting the runway.
Tayfel somehow crash-landed at a busy city intersection, clipping a Transit bus and just missing several cars and pedestrians on the way down.Somehow Tayfel and six passengers survived. No one on the ground was hurt. Yet one elderly passenger, Chester Jones of Kansas, died of his injuries weeks later.Tayfel didn't own up to his mistake - at least not in a legal sense - and chose to fight his charges of criminal negligence at trial. He lost and was convicted.Crown attorney Brian Wilford told court Wednesday Tayfel deserves to be in jail.Although there are really no precedents for a case like this, Wilford says a strong message must be sent to Tayfel and all other pilots that this kind of reckless risk-taking will have serious consequences. And he says a community-based sentence doesn't send that message.
Tayfel's lawyers disagreed, saying it wouldn't be right to send a good man to jail for making a mistake. He didn't deliberately crash his plane, they pointed out. And he came very close to dying himself, they noted.Tayfel's got plenty of support - from family members, friends and even those in the airline community.Personally, I've got mixed feelings on this one.On one hand, there's a long-held belief that jail should probably be reserved for dangerous and/or violent criminals. Tayfel clearly doesn't fit that description. Would putting him behind bars truly make society a safer place?But on the other hand, a life was lost here. Many more could have been. At what point does the background of the offender - however positive - take a backseat to the outcome of the crime?It's a tough call, and one I'm glad I didn't have to make.How about you? Post your thoughts below or click HERE to vote in my latest Jury Poll