'There was nothing I could do to save them,' Canadian man who lost family in 737 Max crash tells Boeing probe
Paul Njoroge's wife, mother-in-law and 3 children died in Ethiopian Airlines disaster
Boeing Co. said on Wednesday it will dedicate half of a $100-million US fund it created to address two deadly crashes of its 737 Max planes to financial relief for 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, who lost three children, his wife and mother-in-law in a 737 Max Ethiopian Air crash in March.
Njoroge's family lived in Hamilton, Ont., before they died when the jet they were in crashed six minutes after takeoff.
In an interview with CBC News, he said he has confidence in U.S. lawmakers to get things right, even if the company thus far hasn't.
"They are going to do a thorough investigative process to make sure they uncover all the weaknesses within Boeing as well as the FAA that led to the flaws in design of the 737 Max as well as the installation of the deadly software," Njoroge told reporters during a break in the hearing,
"I would like them to understand that it's a global tragedy, and it's not just about me," he said. "It could be your children. It could be your spouses."
Njoroge said Boeing, meanwhile, has refused to acknowledge there may have been design flaws in the aircraft. He questions why the MCAS software would have been needed to be installed if there weren't any flaws in the underlying design.
"It's appalling that they've not accepted full responsibilities of these two crashes," he said.
While Boeing has apologized publicly to the families of the victims of the two crashes, it has not contacted family members directly or updated them on the investigation, Njoroge said.
He said he suspects the public has lost confidence in the company and would be wary of getting on 737 Max planes even if the FAA does clear them for flight.
"I don't think the public will trust Boeing, to be honest. I don't think the public would want to fly in those planes. Do you want to fly in those planes? Do you want your children to fly in those planes? Do you want your family members to fly in those planes? I don't have any more children or any more wives."
Fund for victims
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.
A Boeing official told Reuters last month that after a new software flaw emerged the company will not submit an MCAS software upgrade and training revision until September, which means the planes will not resume flying until November at the earliest.
Boeing said on July 3 it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families and communities affected by the crashes.
Feinberg, who will jointly administer the fund with lawyer Camille Biros, said the other $50 million in the fund is earmarked for government and community projects.
Boeing reiterated on Wednesday the money distributed through the fund would be independent from the outcome of any lawsuits. The company is facing a slew of ongoing litigation from the families of victims of both crashes.
"Through our partnership with Feinberg and Biros, we hope affected families receive needed assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible," Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.
Feinberg has administered many compensation funds including for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, General Motors ignition switch crashes and numerous school shootings.
Boeing's initial announcement of the $100-million fund was met with anger by some victims' families, who described the offer as a publicity stunt.
At the hearing in Washington, Representative Peter DeFazio, chair of the House transportation committee, said he would call Boeing officials to testify at a future hearing. DeFazio said the committee is in the middle of an in-depth investigation and had just received a "trove" of documents that panel investigators are reviewing.
With files from CBC News