Families of Ethiopia airline crash victims get Sh156m

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An Ethiopian Airlines plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Families of the 32 Kenyans who lost their lives in the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash have started receiving Sh156 million ($1.45 million) in settlement from a US victim compensation fund.

The US opened a $500 million (Sh53.9) victim fund on Monday as part of the settlement to compensate the heirs, relatives and beneficiaries of the passengers who died in Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2018 and 2019.

The Ethiopian flight which crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport killed 149 on board including 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven Britons, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Germans, four Indians and four people from Slovakia.

The Indonesian Lion Air plane of the same model was involved in a crash less than five months earlier, when it crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

“Each eligible family will receive nearly $1.45 million and money will be paid on a rolling basis as claim forms are submitted and completed,” administrator Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros told Reuters.

The administrators said families have until October 15 to complete claim forms.

Boeing in January agreed to pay the settlement after the US Department of Justice found the airline had design flaws which it kept from regulators and pilots.

The final report on the Boeing 737 MAX, released in September 2020 by a legislative committee in the United States, found “repeated and serious failures” by Boeing and identified the key factors that contributed to the Boeing 737 MAX crash, including design flaws, profit and production priorities at the expense of safety.

The report laid out disturbing revelations about how Boeing—under pressure to compete with Airbus and deliver profits for Wall Street—escaped scrutiny from the FAA, withheld critical information from pilots, and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people in the two crashes.

The payment comes barely a few months after a Kenyan family of a victim of the 2019 Ethiopian Airline crash agreed to settlement of Sh327 million to drop a court case against American aircraft maker Boeing.

This is the first settlement in a case by Ribbeck Law Chartered which sued Boeing for Sh109 billion on behalf of some families who lost their loved ones in the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 2019 crash that killed all 149 people on board.