Ethiopia yet to release report on plane crash as families

Wednesday March 18 2020

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 last month. The lawyers held a press conference in Nairobi on April 3, 2019. PHOTO | AGEWA MAGUT | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Ethiopian government has failed to release a preliminary report that was expected to provide answers on what caused the March 10 crash that killed all the 157 people on board, as families of victims prepare lawsuit against Boeing.

Ethiopian authorities flip-flopped on the report that was expected to be released on Monday, telling reporters that it may be released later in the week instead.

But as they continued the ping pong that has characterised the crash investigation, new information indicates that the pilot who had been condemned as not having enough training may actually have done everything by the book and was instead let down by the Boeing manufactured plane.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX plane took the emergency steps outlined by the manufacturer but still could not regain control.

According to the report, quoting people familiar with the investigation, the pilots tried to regain control of the jet by following the procedures to switch off the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) but failed.



They then resorted to switching back the system in an attempt to find other ways to control the jet before it crashed minutes after takeoff.

The MCAS is believed to have been a key factor in both the 737 MAX crashes. It is designed to automatically lower the aircraft's nose if it detects a stall or loss of airspeed.

Before it crashed, the pilots struggled to control it as the MCAS repeatedly pushed the plane's nose downwards.

In Nairobi, lawyers started joining their counterparts in the UK and the US who are angling for a piece of the action after they began parading themselves to represent the families of the victims.

Lawyers Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a Senator), Mohammed Nyaoga and Geoffrey Imende, based in Kenya, and Carlos Velasquez, Laban Opande and Solomon Musyimi from the United States have joined forces to represent Kenyan families against the giant American corporation.


According to Mr Opande, the team has so far reached out to 10 families and hopes to enjoin more in the case before filing it in the federal court in Chicago next week.

They intend to sue the company and get compensation for the families of those who died in the crash.

“Initially two families sought our services. We had intended to write the documents remotely, but we decided that meeting them in person would be better and more humane. We came into the country on Sunday and have been meeting families since Monday,” Mr Opande told the Nation.

He revealed that the first two families have already signed contracts with the lawyers while the rest are still waiting for the larger families to help them make a decision on getting legal representation. He declined to name the families they are representing.

Mr Opande explained that according to the Montreal Convention of 1999, the manufacturer is liable to pay up to Sh17 million for damages per person but could pay more depending on the entitlement of the deceased’s kin.


Mr Kang’ata has encouraged affected families to join the suit and get the compensation that they deserve.

“The families that have been wondering how they can take on a big American corporate like Boeing should not be scared. They can get help and even set a precedence that has never happened before in a country like ours,” Mr Kang’ata told journalist at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday.

About 30 countries lost their citizens in the March 10 disaster, with Kenya being the most affected having lost 36 people.

The plane was completely disintegrated. The airline plans to build a memorial at the site and will deal with the remains according to individual wishes of families.

Personal effects of the deceased as well as death certificates will be processed and issued to the next of kin within the next two to eight weeks.

Forensic experts collected over 5,000 tiny pieces of human remains that are now undergoing DNA tests.