Families of those killed in 737 Max crashes 'don't need Boeing's charity,' their lawyer says

Boeing Inc.’s (BAnew compensation fund for families killed in two 737 Max crashes distracts from the real needs of victims’ families, according to an attorney representing many of those families.

Bob Clifford, an Illinois attorney experienced in airline catastrophe litigation, is the lead attorney overseeing a group of federal lawsuits filed against Boeing on behalf of Ethiopian Airlines crash victims. He represents more than 60 families whose relatives were killed. On Monday, Boeing began distributing payments of $144,508 to each family who lost a loved one in one of two crashes involving 737s.

“They say we don't need Boeing’s charity, and to the extent that they need help from Boeing, Boeing’s not giving in on the one thing that most of them are anguishing about right now, and that’s the return of the remains, and the access to the crash site in Ethiopia,” Clifford told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday.

Family and friends of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Boeing plane crash victims hold a protest outside Boeing's annual shareholders meeting at the Field Museum on April 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A person familiar with the investigation told Yahoo Finance that local governments, and not Boeing, are the only authorities that can make decisions over the crash site.

‘They have yet to announce how they intend to give that money away’

A dirt road on the way to the crash site has been washed out in recent days, Clifford said on Tuesday, making it impossible to access the location. Asked whether work at the site has stopped because of the conditions, Clifford said he suspected that could be the case — though he did not know for certain.

The road from Adis Araba, Ethiopia, leading to the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 . Source: Clifford Law Offices

The $144,508 payments, which do not take away the right of victims’ estates to sue the company, are to be distributed from a $100 million fund. They were originally announced in July to address “family and community needs” following the two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max. Boeing said $50 million of that would go directly to families, whose relatives were killed by an Ethiopian Airlines crash in March and a Lion Air crash in October 2018.

“Wait a minute,” Clifford said. “To date, they have not announced any of those protocols, number one. Number two, one plane crashed in the ocean, the other crashed in an obscure farm field in Ethiopia, what communities are [they] even talking about? Finally, to this to this day, they have yet to announce how they intend to give that money away.”

Clifford suggests that Boeing instead use the remaining $50 million to partner with the Ethiopian government to develop a memorial and infrastructure so people can access the disaster site.

Boeing is defending a slew of lawsuits stemming from its 737 Max 8 aircraft, involved in both crashes that resulted in the deaths of 346 people.

Shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia on October 29, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 similarly crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 10.

Alexis Keenan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She previously worked for CNN and is a former litigation attorney. Follow on Twitter @alexiskweed.

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.