Kenya: Boeing Offers Families of 737 Max Aircraft Crash Victims Sh15 Million Compensation Package

The team of six lawyers who said they will file a case in the United States to sue aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines on behalf of Kenyans who died in the ill-fated flight in March (file photo).
24 September 2019

Nairobi — United States plane manufacture Boeing on Monday announced it had rolled out a Sh5 billion Financial Assistance Fund to compensate families that lost their loved ones in two recent plane crashes involving its 737 MAX aircraft.

The Chicago-based multinational through administrators - Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros - is set to give each family representing 346 victims $144,500 from the $50 million fund, translating to Sh15 million per family.

"The recent 737 MAX tragedies weigh heavily on all of us at Boeing, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of all those on board," said Dennis Muilenburg, Chairperson, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Boeing Company.

"The opening of this fund is an important step in our efforts to help affected families. We thank Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros for their important work leading this effort."

The $50 million Boeing Financial Assistance Fund represents the initial expenditure of a $100 million pledge by Boeing to address family and community needs of those affected by the tragedies, a statement published by Boeing on Monday indicated.

"The additional $50 million in funds will support education and economic empowerment in impacted communities. Boeing is developing partnerships with local governments and non-profit organizations to address those varying needs," the statement read.

It however remains unclear if families will accept the compensation offer amid indications that law firms that some law firms that have already filed wrongful death lawsuits in US federal courts have advised their clients to reject the offer.

36 Kenyans are among 157 victims of the March 10 crash which involved Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that plummeted into the ground six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia's Bole International Airport while on a routine flight to Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash was strikingly similar to a Lion Air-operated Flight 610 that crashed into the Java Sea just 12 minutes after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta on October 29, 2018 killing all the 189 people on board.

Nomaan Husain, a US attorney, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit before a Federal Court in the State of Illinois on April 15 on behalf of a Kenyan family has been on record ruling out an out-of-court settlement with Boeing saying his law firm which is cooperating with a Nairobi-based law firm on the matter would pursue the case to its conclusion.

"We want to discover why Boeing cleared the new plane model. Where are the documents? Where are the emails? People at the corporation new before the plane was first delivered in late 2017 that there were problems with the plane. We're not interested in taking any money from Boeing at this time; will let the litigation process play out," the founding attorney of Husain Law and Associates remarked when he briefed journalist in Nairobi on April 16.

He said the prosecution team will seek to table before the court evidentiary material available to accurately access the claim due to the bereaved family and punish the aircraft manufacturer for wrongdoing.

Husain said his team will assess as the case unfolds the need to enjoin the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the matter, a State-agency which certified the Being 737 Max 8 plane model that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia's Bole International Airport on March 10 killing all 157 persons onboard.

"We're currently investigating whether the FAA should be brought into the case. Our focus right now is Boeing because they designed, manufactured and sold the plane. That doesn't mean after our investigation as we obtain more evidence, we wouldn't add another party into the case," he said.

The decision by the law firms to sue the plane manufacturer as opposed to the airline is premised on preliminary investigation reports that have singled out the malfunction of an anti-stall system of the Being 737 MAX 8 plane model involved in both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air plane crashes.

Investigations resulting from the two catastrophic falls pointed to the now infamous Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) which relies on angle-of-attack sensor readings to alter the pitch of the plane to prevent stalling.

Faulty angle-of-attack sensor readings are said to have erroneously pitched the noses of flights 302 and 610 sending them to irrecoverable nosedive.

The rollout of the $50 million Boeing Financial Assistance Fund comes two weeks after INTERPOL announced its Incident Response Team (IRT) had identified the remains of all victims of the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, 48 of whom were matched through fingerprints.

"The INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT) deployed following the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane in March has completed its task, assisting with the successful identification of all victims of the deadly disaster," INTERPOL announced in an emailed statement on September 12.

INTERPOL said 100 Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts from 14 countries including Africa, the Americas and Europe worked with the agency's IRT during a mission that lasted 50 days to identify victims of the tragic accident that is subject of multiple wrongful death lawsuits filed against plane manufacture Boeing in the United States.

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock described the successful identification of the victims as of immense importance and critical to bringing closure to families that suffered the loss of their loved ones.

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