A Toronto man, who lost his wife and three young children in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX airplane in Ethiopia, is calling on Boeing executives to resign.
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Njoroge is the first relative of the hundreds of passengers who died in the two crashes to testify before Congress. He will be accompanied by Michael Stumo, whose daughter, Samya, also died in the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash. MAX aircraft have been grounded worldwide since shortly after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and it’s not clear when they will be certified to fly again.
Njoroge previously submitted testimony to the House aviation subcommittee, which stated that passengers’ families believe several demands must be met before the Boeing 737 MAX is allowed to fly again. This includes a new top-to-bottom review of the plane by regulators.
In his testimony on Wednesday, Njoroge spoke of his family’s last moments and demanded reform in the aviation industry.
“I think about their last six minutes a lot,” Njoroge said. “My wife and mum-in-law knew they were going to die. They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments, knowing they were all their last. I wish I was there with them. It never leaves me that my family’s flesh is there in Ethiopia, mixed with the soil, jet fuel and pieces of the aircraft.”
He went on to condemn a “shameful pattern of behaviour by Boeing and airplane manufacturers.”
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Njoroge charged the aircraft manufacturer with “shifting the focus” from the software issues eventually discovered with the Boeing 737 MAX by initially blaming the crash on “foreign pilot error.”
Ahead of his testimony, Njoroge said in an interview that the planes should have been grounded after two deadly crashes — one in October of last year and one in March 2019 — killed a combined 346 people. He added that top executives should also resign and face criminal charges.
In the months following the crashes, a report was commissioned and paid for by institutional investors with large holdings in Boeing stock, stating that pilot error was “the most consequential factor” in both crashes.
Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, ranking member of the House transportation and infrastructure committee, followed up on the report by commenting in May that “pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle” the crashes.
It was later determined that this was not the case.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Graves thanked Njoroge and Stumo for speaking, saying he admired their “resilience and commitment to ensure that no family has to go through this ever again.”
He added: “Any process that is allowed to un-ground this aircraft will not even be allowed to resemble the process that led to these disasters.”
Wednesday’s hearing will be the third held by the House aviation committee on the embattled 737 MAX. Other witnesses will include representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board and unions representing pilots, flight attendants, airline mechanics and safety inspectors.
Boeing Co. said on Wednesday that at least half of its $100-million fund for victims and communities affected by the two deadly 737 MAX crashes would go directly to the families of those killed, with compensation expert Ken Feinberg hired by the world’s largest plane maker to oversee the distribution.
The announcement of Feinberg’s hiring came minutes before the start of a U.S. House of Representatives hearing that featured dramatic testimony by Paul Njoroge, a father who lost three children, his wife and mother-in-law in a 737 MAX Ethiopian Air crash in March.
Feinberg told Reuters his team will “start immediately drafting a claims protocol for those eligible,” with the first meeting with Chicago-based Boeing later this week in Washington.
Earlier this month, Boeing said it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families and communities affected by the crashes.
–With files from the Associated Press and Reuters.