Canadian families file wrongful death lawsuits against Boeing for 737 Max crash

Members of the Njoroge family from Hamilton, Ontario, killed in an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash March 10, 2019 (supplied).

Paul Njoroge first heard of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 as he woke up at home in Hamilton the morning of March 10. In an instant, he knew his life had just been turned upside down. He had booked his whole family on the flight so his nine-month-old daughter could meet her grandparents for the first time.

His wife Carolyne, baby girl Ruby, son Ryan, daughter Kellie and mother-in-law Ann Karanja were all killed.

“I lost my beloved wife Carolyne, and our three little children,” he said. “I was left alone, to lead an empty life with pain and anguish. My life will never be the same.

“To love your entire family in an instant is something that is impossible for human beings to come to terms with. And I feel blessed that I have the sanity to be here today.

“We looked forward to years and years of happy memories,” he said, reading from a written statement. “But instead I’m left with nothing. Without a home. I have no home to go to.”

Lawyers representing Njoroge and another Canadian family, the Vaidya/Dixit family from the Toronto area, have filed lawsuits against Boeing and another company, alleging wrongful death after a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash of a Boeing 737 Max outside the capital Addis Ababa in March.

Members of the Vaidya/Dixit family killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The family filed suit Monday against the aircraft manufacturer (supplied).

Six members of the Vaidya/Dixit family were also among the 18 Canadians killed in the crash. They were headed from their home in the Toronto area to Kenya to go on safari when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff en route to Nairobi. They were among the 157 people killed in the crash, that led to the eventual grounding of Max aircraft around the world.

“It is hard to believe my entire family was wiped out in an instant,” said Manant Vaidya, whose sister, brother-in-law, father, mother, and nieces were killed. “I still cry, and my wife still cries when we think of the last moments of our loved ones’ lives.”

“Somehow we think they will all return,” said his wife Hiral, fighting back tears, “but they will not. We have no closure, we have no peace, and no answer.”

“Mr. Vaidya Pannagesh was a retired CEO of a company,” said lawyer Kevin P. Durkin, at a news conference in Chicago announcing lawsuit. “Everyone here was college educated, [Hansini Pannagesh Vaidya] was a loving mother, grandmother. Kosha, another college degree.” The children, he said, were both competitive swimmers and loved music.

“These poor folks here lost all three generations of their family,” said Durkin, “because of the absolute arrogance, lack of diligence, carelessness and recklessness of the Boeing Corporation.”

The allegations have not been tested in court. Investigators are still completing the process of piecing together precisely what happened in the Ethiopian crash and a Lion Air crash less than five months earlier in which a 737 Max also went down. The type has been grounded around the world since March 13.

Boeing – which has not filed a statement of defence in the lawsuit – has acknowledged that a software called MCAS, used to limit a Max’s attitude during certain phases of flight, played a role in the crash, but also argues other factors were at play.

Boeing is in the process updating the software and getting it certified by authorities.

“We are confident that when the MAX returns to the skies, it will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly,” Boeing repeated today in an unrelated statement posted on its website.

Durkin and the families took Boeing chief executive Dennis Muileburg to task for repeating Monday morning at a shareholder’s meeting that he was confident in the design and certification of the 737 Max.

“Can you imagine the gall of saying that?” asked Durkin. “Are you kidding? Tell that to the families of the 346 people who passed away, either in the Lion Air case or the Ethiopian Airline crash.

“If they’re confident their certification process was so good, we can have no confidence in them in any continued certification or operation of this aircraft.”

Fellow lawyer Frank M. Pitre argued new engines on the Max fundamentally changed the aerodynamics of the 737. “This wasn’t some minor little change. This was a change that had complete aerodynamic effects on the plane, and caused the plane to behave like a bucking bronco when it was taking off.”

“I stay up all night, crying thinking of the horror that they must have endured as pilots struggled to keep the plane flying for six minutes. The terror that my wife must have experienced, with little Ruby in her lap, our two children beside are crying for their daddy,” said Njoroge, his voice cracking with emotion “my mom-in-law feeling hopeless beside her.

“Those six minutes will forever be embedded in my mind. I wasn’t there to help them. I couldn’t save them.

“I hope some day I find some peace. Because I don’t have any peace.”

Other suits have been filed on behalf of Lion Air victims and American victims of the Ethiopian crash.

The lawsuits were filed in U.S. federal court in Illinois.