Relatives of Spanair crash victims sue Boeing

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Families of victims of the Spanair plane disaster claim the MD-82 aircraft plane model has a history of defects and are demanding compensation from the manufacturer.

5 September 2008

MADRID -- Three relatives of victims of the Spanair plane disaster filed a lawsuit against Boeing, the manufacturer of the MD-82 aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff at Barajas airport on Thursday.

The Spanair plane which crashed on 20 August killed 154 people.

The suit was filed in Cook County, Illinois, by Chicago-based Ribbeck Law, which refused to comment to El Pais on whether the lawsuit was a class-action suit or confirm whether more relatives of the Spanair disaster had turned to Ribbeck Law to represent them.

"We are asking Boeing, the company that builds the aircraft, to tell us who carried out the maintenance; who bought the plane; its ownership history; who built the different components of the aircraft that could have malfunctioned," said attorney Manuel von Ribbeck at a press conference in Las Palmas.

The three relatives suing Boeing are María Cabrera of Gran Canaria, a mother who lost two children and grandchild in the crash; Elena Fontaner of Majorca, whose mother and sister died; and Swede Alassan Puhe, who lost a father and sister.

Von Ribbeck said that the MD-82 aircraft has had a history of technical problems. In early August, an American Airlines MD-82 was forced to make an emergency landing after it took- off from New York. A similar plane operated by the same company on 9 August was two hours late on arrival due to hydraulics problems.

This lawsuit follows another filed on Tuesday in Madrid by two relatives against Spanair. Other relatives are expected to do the same.

Judge Javier Pérez is presently compiling information on the crash and whether anyone was to blame. Nineteen people survived the crash of the Spanair aircraft bound for Gran Canaria. Seven survivors are still hospitalised, with one, a 57-year-old man, still in a very serious condition.

A number of explanations for the possible causes of the crash have been published in the media. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the investigation," reported that preliminary information from the MD-82's flight-data recorder shows the movable flaps on the rear of the wings were not properly positioned. The flaps provide extra lift.

Soon after the crash, aeronautical sources said that one of the two Pratt and Whitney engines may have caught fire. A thrust reverser is also reported to have malfunctioned on takeoff.

A spokesperson for the Spanish aircraft maintenance association Asetma, said the Wall Street Journal story was "incomplete" and "premature." It emerged Thursday that two mechanics who inspected the Spanair plane before it took off had removed a fuse that operates a sensor device which helps distribute heat to the engines, because it was not working properly.

[El Pais / E. Tessieri / Expatica]

2 Comments To This Article

  • aviation consultants posted:

    on 11th September 2009, 21:33:11 - Reply

    Oscar--please contact me to talk about your insight into this matter.
  • Oscar posted:

    on 6th October 2008, 19:38:22 - Reply

    I just saw the news about the law suit against Boeing and I just think is wrong. Risponsability should be requested from the spanish authority and the airline. 12 years have I been flying for the airlines and I've never seen such dissregard for operational procedures and flight safety than in latin european countries in the last 2 years that I flew for the airlines in Spain. Don't be surprized if this is a human factor related accident. They returned to the gate due to a failure, 1 hour delay, passengers already upset, the company is due to lay off people, they read the list, they din't visualy confirmed the flaps were actually set and they continued with the take off. Happens a lot in this side of the world.