US Opens $500M Compensation Fund for Victims of Two Boeing Accidents

About a $500 million compensation fund for relatives of the 346 people killed in the fatal crashes of Boeing Lion Air JT 610 and Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 has been opened, administrators told Reuters on Tuesday.

UMMATIMES - The fund, which opened Monday, is part of a settlement with the US Department of Justice. Boeing Co in January agreed to pay $500 million to compensate the heirs, relatives and compensation recipients of passengers who died on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 in 2018 and 2019.

Each eligible family will receive nearly $1.45 million and the money will be paid in installments as claim forms are submitted and completed, administrators Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros said in a joint statement.

Families have until October 15 to complete the claim form.

The US Department of Justice and Boeing declined to comment on the opening of the compensation fund.

The funds are part of a $2.5 billion Justice Department settlement reached in January with Boeing, after prosecutors accused the company of fraud over certification of the Boeing 737 MAX following the Lion Air crashes on October 29, 2019 and Ethiopian Airlines on March 10, 2019.

The settlement allows Boeing to avoid criminal prosecution but has no impact on continuing civil litigation by relatives of victims.

In July 2019, Boeing appointed Feinberg and Biros to oversee the distribution of a separate $50 million to the families of those killed in the crash and the distribution of the new funds following the same formula.

While Boeing has largely settled the Lion Air lawsuits, it still faces multiple lawsuits in Chicago federal court by the family of the Ethiopian crash asking why the MAX continued to fly after the first disaster.

The DOJ settlement includes a $243.6 million fine and $1.77 billion in compensation to the airline on charges of fraudulent conspiracy related to a flawed aircraft design.

"Boeing employees chose to seek profit rather than publicly withhold material information from the FAA regarding the operation of the 737 Max aircraft and engage in efforts to cover up their fraud," the Justice Department said in January.

Some lawmakers said the government had not gone far enough, while Boeing said it had taken many steps to overhaul its safety culture.

The US Congress ordered a major overhaul of how the FAA certifies new planes in December and directed an independent review of Boeing's safety culture.

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded for 20 months after two fatal crashes. The FAA lifted the order after Boeing made software upgrades and training changes.

Last month, Boeing agreed to pay a $17 million fine to the FAA after installing equipment on more than 700 Boeing 737 MAX and NG planes that had unapproved sensors installed.

"The FAA will hold Boeing and the aviation industry accountable for keeping our skies safe," said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.