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03 December 2023

'I miss their laughter': Grieving crash dad slams 'shameful' Boeing

Paul Njoroge (AFP)


A grieving Canadian man who lost his family in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX in Ethiopia in March told the US Congress Wednesday that his life had "no meaning anymore", calling the aircraft manufacturer's practices "shameful."

Paul Njoroge, whose wife, three children and mother-in-law died in the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines disaster, testified before the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee during a hearing on the state of aviation safety.

"I miss their laughter, their playfulness, their touch," Njoroge said in his written testimony.

"I am empty," he said. "My life has no meaning. It is difficult for me to think of anything else but the horror they must have felt."

The congressional hearings follow the global grounding of US manufacturer Boeing's MAX fleet after the Ethiopian crash and an earlier Lion Air MAX disaster in Indonesia.

A total of 346 people died in the two crashes.

The company has been widely criticized over its development of the 737 MAX, with the hearings focusing on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a flight handling system linked to both crashes.

In both crashes, the MCAS pointed the plane sharply downward based on a faulty sensor reading, hindering the pilots' effort to control the aircraft after takeoff, according to preliminary crash investigations.

In verbal testimony, Njoroge accused Boeing of "a shameful pattern of behavior... Boeing shifted focus from the root cause of the crashes, which is the design flaws in the 737 MAX and MCAS, and started talking about 'foreign pilot error'."

"This distracted from correcting the real causes of the crashes and is an insult to humanity."

"Boeing should not be allowed to act like a mere investment company extracting wealth to super-charge shareholder returns at the expense of safety and quality," he added.

In June, a US politician blamed pilot error for contributing to the crash, an accusation which the Ethiopian Airlines president dismissed as "seriously misinformed."

Boeing has been working closely with US regulators in the Federal Aviation Administration and other civil authorities on upgrading the planes to enable them to return to service.

Other victims' family members have also appeared at congressional hearings, and numerous lawsuits have been filed against Boeing.

Its chief executive Dennis Muilenburg has apologized for the lives lost, and earlier this month the firm said it would give $100 million to communities and families affected by the 737 MAX disasters.

On Wednesday Boeing said "it has dedicated $50 million of a previously announced $100 million fund to provide near-term financial assistance to families of the victims" in the two crashes.