Victim slams Boeing over 737 MAX plane crash that took his family

Some victims' families object to Boeing's multi-million dollar compensation offer, saying its a 'publicity stunt'.

    After two fatal crashes that killed more than 300 people, Boeing has said its 737 MAX planes could remain grounded until 2020 [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]
    After two fatal crashes that killed more than 300 people, Boeing has said its 737 MAX planes could remain grounded until 2020 [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]

    After faulty software in two of its planes led to crashes that killed more than 300 people, the Boeing Company has announced it’s hired a compensation expert to assist them in providing payments to the victims’ families.

    Lawyer Kenneth Feinberg will assist the company in distributing $50m to the families.This is half of the $100m the company said on July 3 it would give over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organisations to help families and communities affected by the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

    The announcement of Feinberg's hiring came minutes before a United States House of Representatives hearing featuring dramatic testimony by Paul Njoroge, a father who lost three children, his wife and mother-in-law in a 737 MAX Ethiopian Air crash in March.

    Feinberg told Reuters his team will "start immediately drafting a claims protocol for those eligible," with the first meeting with officials from Chicago-based Boeing later this week in Washington. Feinberg has administered many compensation funds including for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, General Motors ignition switch crashes and numerous school shootings.

    The 737 MAX, Boeing's best-selling jet, was grounded globally in March following the Ethiopian Airlines crash after a similar Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in October. The two crashes killed 346 people.

    Njoroge, 35, told reporters after he testified that he did not think the public would trust Boeing going forward. "Do you want to fly in those planes? Do you want your children to fly in those planes?" Njoroge asked. "I don't have any more children."

    Njoroge told a House subcommittee that he still has "nightmares about how (his children) must have clung to their mother crying" during the doomed flight.

    Njoroge, who was born in Kenya and lives in Canada, said Boeing has blamed "innocent pilots who had no knowledge and were given no information of the new and flawed MCAS system that could overpower pilots."

    Boeing did not address specific questions raised by Njoroge but said in a statement: "We truly regret the loss of lives in both of these accidents and we are deeply sorry for the impact to the families and loved ones of those on board."

    A Boeing official told Reuters last month that after a new software flaw emerged the company will not submit an MCAS software upgrade and training revision until September, which means the planes will not resume flying until November at the earliest. US airlines have cancelled flights through early November as a result of the 737 MAX's grounding.

    In a sign that Boeing's troubles are starting to affect the longer-term plans of some airlines, Bloomberg News reported on July 16 that the extended grounding of the company's 737 MAX planes has forced one airline, Ryanair Holdings Plc, to cut back on its growth plans for the summer.

    Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told Fox Business News Wednesday that the agency has made a lot of progress since the plane's grounding.

    "We have discovered some anomalies and then we have directed Boeing to mitigate those anomalies," Elwell said, declining to set any timetable for returning the plane to service. "The 737 MAX is not going to fly until it passes the most thorough and intense look."

    Feinberg, who will jointly administer the fund with lawyer Camille Biros, said the other $50m in the fund is earmarked for government and community projects.

    Boeing reiterated on Wednesday that the money distributed through the fund would be independent from the outcome of any lawsuits. The company is facing a slew of litigation from the families of victims of both crashes.

    "Through our partnership with Feinberg and Biros, we hope affected families receive needed assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible," Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.

    Boeing's initial announcement of the $100m fund was met with anger by some victims' families, who described the offer as a publicity stunt.

    At the hearing in Washington, Representative Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he would call Boeing officials to give evidence at a hearing. DeFazio said the committee is in the middle of an in-depth investigation and had just received a "trove" of documents that panel investigators are reviewing.

    SOURCE: News agencies