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‘11 years of hell’: the badly injured Qantas steward who was forgotten

Seven months after the incident, his daughter is still in need of 24-hour care due to serious brain injuries.

Her condition compounds Mr Maiava’s own precarious physical, psychological and financial plight. “I am broke. I can’t provide for my family, my children. I am on my own and it is through no fault of my own,” he said.

Fuzzy Maiava at the bedside of his youngest daughter, Apolonia, who was hit by a speeding motorist on October 7 last year, the 10-year anniversary of Qantas Flight 72.

Fuzzy Maiava at the bedside of his youngest daughter, Apolonia, who was hit by a speeding motorist on October 7 last year, the 10-year anniversary of Qantas Flight 72.

While other crew and passengers of QF72 have received compensation for their injuries, Mr Maiava’s legal case in the US against multinational manufacturers Airbus and Northrop Grumman was unsuccessful for procedural and evidentiary reasons.

Qantas had earlier offered him a one-off payment of $NZ35,000 ($33,277) following the incident but Mr Maiava said he had been advised against accepting it because it would have prevented him from taking part in any class action in the US against Airbus and Northrop Grumman.

Any avenue of appeal in the US now appears closed because too much time has passed.

“The doors are closed – I’m devastated. That’s why I think, ‘what have I done to deserve this’?” he said. “It’s been 11 years of hell. The system let me down.”

Fuzzy Maiava on a stretcher after he was badly injured on Qantas Flight 72 in 2008.

Fuzzy Maiava on a stretcher after he was badly injured on Qantas Flight 72 in 2008.

Under New Zealand’s compensation scheme for workplace injuries, he receives about $NZ580 a week but fears he will be placed on a sickness benefit which pays significantly less.

The injuries he received aboard Qantas Flight 72 have left him unable to work or drive a car. He takes 22 pills a day for chronic pain and conditions such as anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance. Spasms in his legs can strike at any time, and last for 30 minutes.

He spends long periods of the day sleeping due to side effects of the drugs. In coming months he will undergo his ninth surgery, this time to build a “spinal bridge” due to damaged discs.

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In 2012, the former policeman tried to take his life. He continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It has cost him marriage and has strained relationships with his five children and extended family.

The captain of QF72, Kevin Sullivan, details Mr Maiava’s plight in a new book, No Man’s Land, which provides a detailed account of the near disaster in 2008, concerns about the pace of aircraft automation, and his own battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There’s a price to pay when automation fails spectacularly. Few have suffered more than Fuzzy,” Mr Sullivan writes in his book. “He lives on the poverty line. He faces a life of medication for chronic pain and PTSD. The pain provides the triggers for nightmares.”

Qantas said it could not go into detail about individual employees but had “offered various forms of support to the crew involved and has met all of its statutory obligations”.

Airbus said it was unable to comment due to “ongoing legal proceedings”. Comment has also been sought from Northrop Grumman.

Matt O’Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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