“Our lives were just beginning,” said Brittney Riffel this week. “And now Emma will never get a chance to know her father.”
Riffel was referring to the 2019 crash of a Boeing 737 MAX in Ethiopia that claimed the life of her husband, Melvin, and his brother, Bennett, according to The Texas Tribune. Brittney and Melvin’s daughter, Emma, was born two months after her father’s death, said the outlet.
Melvin and Bennett are just two of 346 people who died during two plane crashes, Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
KRLD’s Andrew Greenstein reported that Boeing pleaded guilty to defrauding federal regulators in a 2021 plea deal and paid $2.5 billion in fines and penalties.
Boeing admitted in court documents that it “deceived the FAA AEG about an important aircraft part called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that impacted the flight control system of the Boeing 737 MAX,” and, “because of their deception, a key document published by the FAA AEG lacked information about MCAS, and in turn, airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for U.S.-based airlines lacked information about MCAS,” said the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
It explained that two of Boeing’s 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots discovered information about an important change to MCAS, but did not share the information about this change with the FAA AEG.
“Because of this deceit, the FAA AEG deleted all information about MCAS from the final version of the 737 MAX FSB Report published in July 2017,” said the U.S. attorney’s office. “In turn, airplane manuals and pilot training materials for U.S.-based airlines lacked information about MCAS, and pilots flying the 737 MAX for Boeing’s airline customers were not provided any information about MCAS in their manuals and training materials.”
MCAS was activated during Boeing MAX 737 plane crashes.
“The misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions communicated by Boeing employees to the FAA impeded the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the flying public,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas when Boeing’s $2.5 million payment was announced. “This case sends a clear message: The Department of Justice will hold manufacturers like Boeing accountable for defrauding regulators – especially in industries where the stakes are this high.”
As part of the plea deal, Boeing is granted immunity from criminal prosecution. However, Greenstein reported that families such as the Riffels believe that part of the deal violates their rights. Boeing was arraigned Thursday on a felony criminal charges, where even more family members of the crash victims spoke before District Judge Reed O’Connor.
“I’ll never get to know what my children would have become,” said Paul Njoroge, who choked back tears as he talked about the death of his wife and children, according to The Texas Tribune.
“We will never forget the lives lost in these accidents,” a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement, according to the outlet. “We have made broad and deep changes across our company, and made changes to the design of the 737 MAX to ensure that accidents like these never happen again.”