Discussion  Hop To Forum Categories  SR111 Messages    Swiss Family Files Homicide Charges- Nov. '98

Moderators: BF, Mark Fetherolf
Swiss Family Files Homicide Charges- Nov. '98
Whatever happened to this case?

November 7, 1998
Geneva (CP-AP)- The parents of a Swiss teenager killed in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 have lodged a complaint of negligent homicide in hopes of learning what caused the accident, their lawyer said yesterday.

The names of the 19-year-old victim and his parents were not disclosed.

Lawyer Christian Luescher stressed the parents, a French man and his Swiss wife, were not seeking damages but were using the Swiss legal procedure that requires authorities to investigate.

All 229 passengers and crew were killed when the MD-11 airliner flying from New York to Geneva went down off Peggy's Cove Sept.2.

The complaint was the first to be filed in Switerland. American lawyer Mitch Baumeister has filed three lawsuits in the United States, each demanding $125 million in damages.

Authorities in Geneva, where the victim lived, have begun an inquiry and sent an investigative commission to Halifax to obtain information on the crash. Investigating judge Christine Junod told The Associated Press the Commission was seeking information from Canadian authorities and from Swissair.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Bill Price said news of the Swiss investigation was not entirely unexpected, considering the severity of the crash.

"That doesn't really surprise me," Price said.

"I'm sure the American authorities are probably doing the same thing."

Price said Canadian authorities continue to view their probe of the crash as a criminal investigation.

"Although everyone is fairly certain it was an accident, we still have to treat it as a criminal investigation until such time as we have been told that it is definately an accident," he said.

Price said investigators will co-operate fully with any requests made by the Swiss authorities.


Well that's strange that Price would say that the investigators would co-operate fully. Now maybe they actually did. However look at the following comments by Beno�t Bouchard, former Chairman
Transportation Safety Board of Canada at a NTSB/TSB symposium in '99:

"Two recent accidents come to mind. We saw the intense interest of the FBI in the TWA 800 accident. In the SwissAir 111 accident near Peggy's Cove there has been, in Switzerland, an allegation of "manslaughter through negligence". An investigating judge has been assigned in Switzerland and the Canadian Department of Justice has been asked to obtain our files. While we like to cooperate, we will resist the use of our information for the purposes of prosecutions with extreme vigour. For the crews and the companies involved, this interest in criminal charges must be alarming. From the perspective of the accident investigation agency it is very worrisome.

The effect of bringing criminal charges against crews and companies can be very detrimental to the investigation and to safety. If crews and companies are fearful about speaking freely to investigators, the investigators must necessarily take longer and may not even succeed in identifying safety problems. So, what is required in the coming months?

The accident investigation authorities need to explain clearly the ground rules and the protections for information that are in place. The accident investigation organizations will need understanding and support from the industry to defend the protections that exist for important safety reasons. The investigation authorities must explain that some information that is wanted by the industry will not be available if we are to protect the principles that support getting complete safety information to the investigator by the quickest means available.

These quickest means are critical so that the investigator can make findings about safety problems and make them known, so that safety deficiencies can be eliminated as quickly as possible.

When there is a safety failure within the good and effective transport system that is overseen by the regulatory agencies, the accident investigators enter the picture to analyse the accident or incident. The part of the transportation system that is managed by regulators includes, among other things, the assessment of penalties to encourage operators back on the path to safety. Can we say that is entirely or even substantially wrong? Manufacturers use investigation information to verify the performance of their aircraft and to analyse performance anomalies. That's certainly in support of safety.

The TSB has made some assertions about the transportation industry and I suspect they are not far from what other accident investigation agencies have said or might say. Those assertions, or inferences, underlie the way that the Board operates.

The Board believes that almost everyone in the transportation community is objective and forthright. It presumes that people who work in the transportation community are generally competent, they like their work and they try to 'get things right'. That when there is a safety failure, it is likely because there was an absence of knowledge or training or understanding. Those inferences are reflected in the legislation and practices of the TSB.

In our work we have found much to validate their soundness.

When this is combined with the separation of accident investigation from the liability and discipline functions, it provides strong incentives to be forthcoming about safety problems. The presumption that the crews tried to get things right is behind us having human performance specialists trying, among other things, to determine whether the circumstances of the accident were beyond the limits of expected human behaviour.

I will now turn to those uses of accident investigation information that are for purposes other than the reduction of accidents or the advancement of transportation safety. Lawyers will use investigation information for the purposes of pressing, and defending against, civil claims. Media organizations will use accident investigation information as part of the news that sells their products. All those uses are legitimate but they are often in conflict with conducting the quickest possible investigation to identify safety problems and get them out of the system.

What does this all tell us about where aircraft accident investigation is headed? First, it tells us that safety investigators do not have an exclusive right to accident investigation information.

Often the accident investigators have the only information about many aspects of the circumstances of an accident and its analysis. Others claim access to that information for their own purposes - purposes that often conflict with efficient accident investigation and the earliest identification of safety deficiencies. It tells us that the others in competition for the information will press their point of view.

It tells us that we must put forth our own point of view clearly and with sound reasons. It tells us that we should do everything possible to separate our gathering of information from accidents and incidents for non- regulatory safety purposes from the activities of others who gather information for their own purposes which often conflict with safety. It tells us that we must explain the regime that includes incentives to provide information to accident investigators quickly and freely.

It tells us that in spite of our best efforts, that some information is so important to others that they will find means of obtaining it regardless of the law. (Swissair 111 some CVR excerpts leaked to US media and later picked up in Canada.)

The level of public attachment to aircraft accident stories has soared since the beginnings of CNN and the subsequent all news TV channels and radio stations.

The media interest in TWA 800 and SwissAir 111 represents a new reality. It is dragging along interest in smaller accidents and my belief is that media interest in aviation accidents will continue to grow. The present level of media interest puts great pressures on investigators. It puts pressure on the carriers, on the pilot's associations and on the regulators. We must accommodate and manage the change within this new reality.

We must manage our investigations in a way that respects the present state of society without compromising our ability to investigate as quickly and effectively as present day technology permits. I should add that this intense public interest is not all bad for the investigative process."
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
So to me it sounds as if Bouchard is saying that the CTSB would block information requested by this family that lost a 19 yr. old son. Maybe it's just me, but that's how I read his remarks. I wonder what actually did happen?
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Around August of '99 a person from Switzerland joined the sr111 board and offered to bring us information that was being reported in his country. I asked him the status of the case that had been filed by this family from Switzerland. I have left his name off of the post but have not otherwise edited it in anyway. I also asked him what swissair & the Swiss people thought about the information being reported regarding the IFEN.

"It is hard for me to say what other swiss are
thinking about this information. But is clear that
swissair feares that it could be the IFEN what ignited the
fire on the sr111. With capton, mylar, or the cockpit
emergency proceeds they always can play the ball back to
Boeing or the FAA. Not so with IFEN!
I dont think so
that the Laasner-article of tim van beveren will
really worry them. But the earlier articles were he
pointed out that IFEN was unwise or improperlly
installed, does hit swissair on a sensitive point.
about the investigation into criminal activitys: so far
I know, there are bazl-people in canada working
with the TSB. The criminal investigation is driven
trough a geneva attourny, but I have no idea how fare
this investigetion is. But I think they cant do much
so long all the maintenance documents of swissair
are part of the TSB-Crash-Investigation.
At first
swissair denied the competence of the canton geneva for
these investigation and argued this is either a
swiss-federal-or an canton zurich-attourny-case. A geneva court
decidet then that canton geneva has the right to
investigate in this case, so the federal-swiss-attourny
office in Bern handelt the case to geneva, to
concentrate possible criminal investigations in one
I hope this informations are o.k. for you"
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
I'm afraid that I can't offer facts supporting my responses, or suggest that I know the answer that you are looking for, but I believe that the balance of probabilities support the following:

The IFEN was likely operating throughout the entire flight - for the reason that you have noted, the in-progress display is very interesting and would be watched by many passengers. Furthermore, the only way to power the IFEN down totally, I understand, would have been to pull the circuit breaker associated with that circuit - a procedure that the crew would not have wanted to do as a routine on/off operation.

The only reason for having anything 'off' would be to disable the gaming provisions while in US airspace - a feature I suspect would easily be accomplished from the IFEN System Management Terminal (see the sbaReport pdf file), since it was known to the builders and company that gaming would not be permitted in some countries' airspace. While that might be disabled, the company would still want to be able to offer games and movies for sale - so other 'on-demand' features would be wanted.

A much more difficult question would be how much of the IFEN would be disabled - and whether that had a significant effect on the electrical load presented to the aircraft wiring system.

I expect that the seat displays would be turned off to discourage use when taxiing and taking off - operational periods when tables and trays aren't allowed to be out for safety reasons, but turned on shortly thereafter to allow use of the
system for its other features. The gaming features would have been enabled when out of domestic US airspace. I don't know the provisions for gaming when in Canadian airspace. The seat displays would have been a significant percentage of the IFEN electrical load. The nature of the features that are enabled is not likely to significantly affect the electrical load.

As noted in one of the earlier posts, it is unfortunate that early CVR records of the flight were overwritten - since operation of various parts of the IFEN might have been more easily determined, and perhaps useful in the incident reconstruction.

Nevertheless, I would not subscribe to a 'blackout' - ie electrical failure leading to loss of communications for the 13 minutes. It would have had to be unknown to the crew - as it has been noted - an electrical failure of that nature would have been reported by the crew immediately upon re-establishment of communications with Boston.
Posts: 9 | Registered: Mon April 08 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Sorry folks - the previous post was intended for the topic 'more questions about sr111' and not this one.

"If you need an accident to know there is a problem, then you are<br />part of the problem." (Joe Barton)
Posts: 9 | Registered: Mon April 08 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Anyone from Switzerland know what happened to this? Was an investigation conducted? Were the results of it ever made public?
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata    Discussion  Hop To Forum Categories  SR111 Messages    Swiss Family Files Homicide Charges- Nov. '98

© YourCopy 2002