Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that an Ethiopian Airlines-operated jet crashed while en route to Toronto. The aircraft was en route to Kenya.
Paul Njoroge, who lost his wife, three children and mother-in-law when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed earlier this year, doesn’t believe he’ll see the compensation promised by the aircraft manufacturer.
Boeing Co. announced on Wednesday that at least half of its $100-million fund for victims and communities affected by the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines 302 and Lion Air 610, both of which involved the 737 MAX aircraft, 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.
However, in an interview with Global News’ Jackson Proskow shortly after testifying at a hearing before the U.S. House subcommittee on aviation, Njoroge called the announcement a “total gaffe.”
“There is nothing there. It has no foundation,” he said “They have no plans on how they will distribute the funds.“
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A total of 346 of passengers were killed after two Boeing 737 MAX planes crashed within the last year. The first crash took place on Oct. 29, 2018, when Lion Air Flight 610 went down off the coast of Jakarta and killed 189 people.
The second took place on March 10, when an Ethiopian Airlines-operated jet went down while en route to Kenya, killing 157 people on board.
Njoroge claims that since the tragedy, he has not heard anything from Boeing.
“No, we’ve not heard anything from Boeing,” he said. “Boeing has never contacted the next-of-kins of the people who died in the two crashes.”
Earlier this month, Boeing announced it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations (NGOs) to help families and communities affected by the crashes.
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It’s unclear whether there are plans to follow through with this pledge.
“Initially they say that the funds will be, they will give the funds to the government and NGOs,” Njoroge said. “Then you wonder how does the government and the NGOs know what the concerns of the families of the victims are?”
Since the declaration was made, a number of issues have emerged, ranging from families refusing the payout to others finding they were unable to access it.
Reporting from BBC and the New York Times last week indicates that relatives of those killed aboard Lion Air 610 were persuaded to sign forms preventing them from taking legal action against the manufacturer.
In addition, a number of Kenyan families who lost loved ones aboard Ethiopian Airlines 302 this past March rejected a proposal earlier this month from Boeing to compensate them for their losses.
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Boeing is facing dozens of lawsuits over the crashes. Relatives of passengers aboard Lion Air 610 agreed to try to settle through mediation, but families of passengers killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash are waiting until more is known about the accidents.
Chicago lawyer Robert A. Clifford, who represents Njoroge, said it’s a “problem” that Boeing has earmarked half of the fund for relief.
“Even giving Boeing its due, it missed its mark because they added a new layer of confusion to expedient and efficient relief to these families,” he said in a statement, adding that families would have to make claims twice.
A ‘global tragedy’
Njoroge said he chose to testify on Wednesday to ensure that the committee understands the issue is a “global tragedy.”
“You know the planes crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia,” he said. “The planes could have crashed anywhere else.”
He said Boeing should refocus their objectives on aviation safety.
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“They should should adhere to what to what should be their fundamental responsibility, and that is to manufacturer and deliver safe planes. And if they do that, then I’ll feel that they’ve done something to help the public.”
But, while Njoroge says he believes the committee will conduct a thorough investigation, he does not want to see the aircraft back in the sky.
“I will unequivocally say that I would want the planes to be scrubbed,” he said. “I would not want to see them fly again.”
Living an ’empty life’
Njorge says since the loss of his wife, children and mother-in-law, he has been living an “empty life.”
“My wife and my children were the only life that I had.” he said.
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However, he says advocating on their behalf has given him strength.
“It doesn’t give me any comfort, it just gives me some strength,” he said.
Boeing did not reply to a request for comment by time of publication.
— With files from Jackson Proskow and the Associated Press.