Lebanese families planning to sue Boeing over Ethiopian plane crash

By Bassem Mroue, AP
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lebanese plan to sue Boeing for Ethiopian crash

BEIRUT — Relatives of those killed aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed into the Mediterranean off Lebanon in January are planning to file a multimillion dollar lawsuit against American plane manufacturer Boeing in a U.S. court, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The Boeing 737 crashed on Jan. 25, just minutes after takeoff from Beirut during a fierce thunderstorm. All 90 people on board died.

“We have filed, in Chicago, a petition for discovery which in this case was filed against the Boeing Corporation because it is the manufacturer of the plane,” Monica Kelly of the Chicago-based firm Ribbeck Law told The Associated Press. “We have not filed any lawsuit yet.”

“We have started this discovery process in Illinois,” where Boeing is based, she said. “We will file a lawsuit as soon as we have enough permission from the documents that we are going to receive.”

Her comments came a month after Lebanon’s Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said the information from the data flight recorder indicates that the cause of the crash appeared to be neither a technical problem nor an explosion.

Kelly said that she and a colleague as well as a Canadian aviation expert have been in Beirut for two weeks where they met 30 relatives of the Lebanese victims. She added that they were also in contact with several Ethiopian relatives of plane victims.

Fifty-four Lebanese and 30 Ethiopians were killed in the crash.

The plane’s cockpit voice recorder and date flight recorder are being analyzed in France by BEA, a French agency that specializes in assisting with technical investigations of air crashes.

Nothing official has been said so far about the cause of the crash.

A day after the crash, Aridi said the plane’s pilot made a “fast and strange turn” minutes after takeoff from Beirut. He added then that the plane flew in the opposite direction from the path recommended by the control tower after taking off in stormy weather.

Kelly said they don’t plan to wait for official reports because in most cases they take more than two years to be released.

Asked if they will file a multimillion dollar suit against Boeing if the cause of the crash turns out to be mechanical failure, Kelly said “yes, of course. We have always done that in prior crashes.”

Also Tuesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri received relatives of the victims who were briefed about efforts exerted by the state since the crash.

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