Families of Canadians killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash file lawsuit
Published Monday, April 29, 2019 1:46PM EDT Last Updated Monday, April 29, 2019 5:26PM EDT
The families of Canadians killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash last month launched a collection of lawsuits against Boeing on Monday, alleging the plane manufacturer put profits over safety when it rushed a new aircraft model to market.
All 157 people on board were killed when the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed on March 10. Eighteen of the victims were Canadian citizens, although several others were foreign nationals living in Canada.
Lawyers in Chicago filed Monday's suits in the U.S. on behalf of a Brampton, Ont., family that lost six members and a man who lost his Hamilton-based wife and three young children.
"Blinded by its greed, Boeing haphazardly rushed the 737 Max 8 to market, with the knowledge and tacit approval of the United States Federal Aviation Administration while Boeing actively concealed the nature of the automated system defects," the unproven claims alleged.
"Numerous decisions by Boeing's leadership substantially contributed to the subject crash and demonstrate Boeing's conscious disregard for the lives of others."
Boeing said it could not comment on the lawsuits.
"We offer our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302," spokesman Paul R. Bergman said in a statement. "Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available."
Manant Vaidya, a Brampton man who lost his parents, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces, said his family had been travelling to Kenya for a safari vacation that they had spent years saving for. He said he was taking legal action to get answers.
"They all died together due to the insensitivity and greed of the maker of the plane," Vaidya told a news conference in Chicago. "We still cry when we think of the horror of their last moments."
Paul Njoroge, who lost his entire immediate family, was also part of the legal action. His wife Carolyne Karanja, seven-year old son Ryan, four-year-old daughter Kelly and nine-month old daughter Rubi died in the crash. Rubi was the only Canadian citizen in the family while Karanja had applied to be a permanent resident.
"I'm left with nothing," said a teary Njoroge, who also lost his mother-in-law Ann Karanja. The family was travelling to Kenya to visit the children's grandfather.
The suits alleged the pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines plane dealt with the same problems that occurred on a deadly Lion Air flight with the same type of aircraft that crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, 2018 and killed all 189 on board.
"The flight paths and data released thus far for both aircraft show that the pilots were engaged in a terrifying tug-of-war with the plane's automated systems as the pilots manually tried to climb while the computer system repeatedly caused the plane to dive with increasing nose-down trim against the pilot inputs," the suits claimed.
The pilots lost their fights against Boeing's flight computer, the suits allege.
The suits allege Boeing leadership was worried about losing market share to its main rival, Airbus, so it sought to push forward a modified version of the 737 airplanes. The modifications, rather than an entirely new design, allowed pilots to operate the 737 Max 8s "without extensive simulation time or retraining," the claims said.
However, the suits allege, the goal of a more fuel-efficient plane included larger engines that had to be relocated, which then forced the landing gear to be moved forward. Pilots operating the older 737s found the Max 8s "would ascend faster and at a higher angle, increasing the risk of a stall," the suits claim.
To deal with the issue, the company installed a new automated flight control system that would help compensate for the issue of climbing too fast, the suits said. The system based its information on a single sensor on the fuselage that would detect the angle of the plane, they said.
The system was designed to run in the background and compensate accordingly. The suits allege pilots weren't informed of the existence of the new flight control system, nor was any information about it included in the manual given to pilots.
"Pilots would only learn indirectly about the (automated flight control system) when the plane began automatically fighting their pitch commands, often at low altitudes with little time to react and resolve the issue," the suits allege.
The two families have also filed a claim against the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, alleging the regulator enabled the plane's rush to market.