More Kenyans join Sh100bn Ethiopia plane crash case


The crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines plane near Bishoftu, some 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababaon March 10, 2019. PHOTO | AFP

More Kenyans have joined a Sh100 billion compensation suit filed at a US federal court by top American law firms against airplane manufacturer Boeing following the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.

Chicago-headquartered Ribbeck Law Chartered -- specialising in cases around aviation disasters -- and the Global Aviation Law Group, a partnership of US global law firms and lawyers, are representing 66 families of passengers that perished in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and November last year’s Lion Air Flight 610 crash.

The two most recent and worst aviation disasters claimed 346 lives, out of which 32 were Kenyans aboard the Ethiopian Airlines plane.

50 cases

In a statement, the law firms said they plan to prove alleged flaws committed by Boeing during the construction of the 737 Max 8 model and negligence by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during inspection and approval of the plane.

More than 50 cases filed by the crash victims are currently pending before the federal court in Chicago.

Mediation has already taken-off and is set to continue next Monday.

Manuel von Ribbeck, an aviation lawyer with Ribbeck Law Chartered, is seeking to petition the suit’s co-counsel, Global Aviation Law Group, to petition the court to consolidate the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crash cases and proceed to trial if mediation fails.

“Today, we have added an additional case for a passenger from Kenya who died in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.

Our clients are seeking more than a billion US dollars for their damages. Next week we will file an additional case for a family from Egypt,” said Ribbeck in a statement.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash involving the Ethiopian Airlines killed all 157 passengers and crew on board.

Boeing in July offered Sh10 billion to support the families of the victims. The aircraft that was enroute to Nairobi from Addis Ababa came down at Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) area barely six minutes after taking off from the Bole International Airport.

The first Max 8 crash involved Indonesia’s Lion Air budget airline which dived into the Java Sea an hour and 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board.

Faulty parts

Preliminary investigations, according to Boeing Co, indicated that Lion Air Flight 610 experienced erroneous readings from a flight-monitoring system, causing the plane to dive without warning.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash started in similar fashion, prompting FAA to confirm that the 737 Max planes may have faulty parts.

“Our Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 clients would like to know why the 737 Boeing Max 8 aircraft weren’t grounded after the first crash. Was the FAA complicit? Was the FAA covering up for Boeing’s criminal behaviour?” said Deon Botha of Global Aviation Law Group.

“Boeing knew these planes were flawed and it did not stop its defective aircraft from flying until the second plane crashed killing an additional 157 people.

"Boeing’s criminal acts must be punished. The families have asked our law firm not to stop fighting until we find the truth and those responsible are punished by the courts.”