• Sun
  • Nov 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:01am

SilkAir crash finding spurs angry relatives

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 August, 1999, 12:00am
 

The families of at least 15 victims of the 1997 SilkAir crash say they are now even more determined to take legal action after learning the plane may have been deliberately brought down.


'This is not about compensation,' said Stephanie Chong, whose husband was among the 104 people killed. 'We are looking for the truth and for someone to be responsible for the crash.' Next-of-kin have been angered by the snail's pace of the accident investigation and how poorly they have been kept informed.


An acknowledgment on Wednesday night by the Singapore Government that 'unlawful interference' may have caused the crash of flight MI185 from Jakarta was the first real clue in two years as to why their loved ones died.


SilkAir general manager Mak Swee Wah said: '[Pilot] suicide is not the conclusion at this point, but it could be a cause.' Aaron Ng, who lost his fiancee, said: 'We are glad they have confirmed that a human aspect could be to blame. It is about time. A lot of families feel it is a bit late.' Relatives have been preparing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against aircraft manufacturer Boeing, with SilkAir and Singapore Airlines as co-defendants.


But lawyers say should the final report rule out mechanical failure, as now seems likely, they may not get very far.


The pilot-suicide theory was first mooted a month after the December 19 accident in Indonesia, but was condemned at the time by SilkAir as 'unhealthy speculation'.


The preliminary findings of Indonesian investigators presented to family members on Wednesday said an unknown person had put the plane into a nose dive and switched off the cockpit voice recorder, and pilot Captain Tsu Way Ming had tried leaving the cockpit just seconds before it crashed.


Indonesia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission said examination of the wreckage and flight data recorder indicated that on impact the aircraft's horizontal stabiliser had a nose-down trim - which means it was set to descend.


During their briefing, families focused on Captain Tsu's role and revelations about his financial difficulties and poor disciplinary record, which showed he failed to file reports on earlier flights and had once switched off the flight recorder in the months preceding the crash.


Relatives of the victims are frustrated over why SilkAir did not ground Captain Tsu and why it has taken 20 months for much of this information to be produced.


SilkAir claims it is insured against any claims. So far just a handful of families have accepted the airline's offer of US$140,000 (HK$1.09 million) compensation.


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