Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2000

Airline offers cash to crash victims, families

November 5, 2000

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— Faced with the fact that its pilot was at least partially responsible for the jumbo jet crash last week that claimed 81 lives, Singapore Airlines announced Saturday that it will give each of the victims' families $400,000.

The offer came on top of an immediate $25,000 payout the airline made to the families. In addition, the airline said it will bear all the medical expenses of those injured, who initially were offered $5,000 each.

All told, the company's compensation package will exceed $35 million, but the cost of Tuesday's fiery crash could be boosted significantly by lawsuits from survivors and relatives of the dead, as well as by damage to the airline's reputation.

"This is a very sad situation, and the airline hopes to help families through this terrible period by offering compensation without delay," the company said in a prepared statement.

The payout might do little, however, to assuage the anger of the victims' families, many of whom have criticized the airline's handling of the accident and its steadfast refusal to take any blame until crash investigators revealed evidence Friday that the pilot, C.K. Foong, had tried taking off from the wrong runway.

The mistake resulted in the aircraft's hurtling into concrete blocks and other objects on the runway, which was under construction, as the plane accelerated to more than 160 mph.

The impact caused the Boeing 747-400 to shear into three sections and burst into flames. Two dozen of the dead were Americans; the others were mostly Taiwanese and Singaporean.

On Saturday, some relatives of those killed mourned their loved ones on the tarmac where they lost their lives. Some knelt in prayer, while others stood and looked wordlessly at the scorched parts of the plane in which their family members had hoped to travel to Los Angeles.

Also at the crash site Saturday were investigators who are focusing their attention on how Foong, an experienced airman who had flown to Taipei 10 times previously, might have mixed up the runway he was supposed to use with the runway under construction. The two runways are directly parallel but differ in width and lighting.

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