US planemaker Boeing, on Wednesday, promised to give $100 million to help families affected by the deadly crashes of the company’s 737 MAX planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The funds will not go directly to the families but will be given to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families with education and living expenses and to improve economic development in affected communities, Boeing said in a statement.
“The families and loved ones of those onboard have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” the statement added.
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Aviation regulators around the world grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX planes following the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash, which left 157 people dead. That accident came on the back of a similar Lion Air jet crash in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people.
A problem with the model’s anti-stall system is reported to be partly to blame for the disasters. Boeing has since been working with regulators to roll out a software upgrade and has no date as to when the aircraft would be cleared to fly again.
The Chicago-based company is, at the moment, facing a series of lawsuits from families of victims. The $100 million funds, which will be available over the next several years, are, however, not part of any compensation Boeing may have to pay to those who have sued the company for damages related to the accidents.
Nomi Husain, a Texas-based lawyer representing some of the families of victims of ET 302, said Boeing’s payment “doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating the families for what has been taken from them”.
He told the BBC that “some of our clients are not interested in financial compensation at this point” and that Boeing “put profit over safety to get their number-one selling plane to market”.
Robert Clifford, who has brought lawsuits in the Ethiopian crash on behalf of 23 families from 18 countries said the families are “tired of hearing justice and accountability defined only in terms of compensation.”
He said they want the truth about what really happened and help in recovering the human remains from the crash site. Steven Marks, another lawyer representing more than 30 families, called Boeing’s offer “nothing more than a public-relations stunt to appease the general public.”
Other families also fear that since the money will be disbursed partly to local authorities and communities, some of it will fill the pockets of local officials and “could even exert Boeing influence on the handling of the investigations by the Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities,” reports The Seattle Times.
Meanwhile, some lawyers have said that the offer from Boeing in advance of any legal settlement is unusual as previous plane crashes did not witness any large global payout as Boeing’s.