No criminal charges in crash of Flight 261
(Seattle Times) - Federal prosecutors in California have decided not to charge Alaska Airlines in the January 2000 crash of Flight 261 and have closed their criminal investigation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco told Alaska last month "after a review of all the relevant information, it has concluded that the evidence does not warrant the filing of criminal charges," the Seattle-based airline disclosed yesterday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Through an aide, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Jacobs confirmed the decision but declined further comment. Alaska spokesman Jack Evans declined to elaborate on the filing.
Alaska's Flight 261 crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Southern California on Jan. 31, 2000, killing all 88 passengers and crew members. The U.S. Attorney's Office, which already had been investigating practices at Alaska's Oakland, Calif., maintenance base, expanded the inquiry to include the Flight 261 crash.
But prosecutors in December 2001 put their investigation on hold pending the results of a separate inquiry by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The board's report, released in December 2002, blamed Alaska for the crash, saying its workers did not sufficiently lubricate a key piece of the horizontal stabilizer on the MD-83's tail.
Based on the board's findings, the prosecutors reopened their investigation in January.
The U.S. attorney's decision not to charge Alaska moves the airline a step closer to putting the crash behind it.
Survivors of crash victims filed wrongful-death suits against Alaska and Boeing, which had purchased McDonnell Douglas, maker of the jet. All but one of the 88 suits have been settled.
The one remaining suit, brought by the family of a California woman, is pending in federal court in Los Angeles.
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To me in light of the NTSB's findings following the tragic crash, this is deeply disturbing. Here is another example of our non-justice system at work. I really believe (despite the industry/investigators beliefs to the contrary) that this sends the WRONG message to maintenance workers/management. It says, 'don't worry if you go along with management and cut corners and it happens to cause a crash where multiple, avoidable deaths are involved, because there will be NO repercussions/consequences whatsoever.' To me that's just plain wrong and it does nothing to prevent the next one. But if you are a pilot you WILL be prosecuted if you make a stupid remark when going through airport security. Yeah makes a whole lot of sense. Oh and also if you attempt to fly a plane with alcohol in your system here in Florida, that's ok too.
88 lives destroyed, not to mention the family's of these people for who life will never be the same again. Unless this has happened to you, you canï¿½t even imagine what that means. It is a living death. But hey you can just pay them off. Oh and by the way if you have a 'great' idea such as having an entertainment system aboard an aircraft, you can knowingly cut corners, use unqualified people to install it, not even get it certified but pretend you did, and if that results in hundreds of deaths, oh well. Of course the only problem is that we havenï¿½t prevented the individuals that do these kinds of things from doing it again. Regulations are studied and allegedly changed but strangely enough these tragedies happen again and again and we shake our heads and act surprised when they do. We still donï¿½t get it that all the regulations in the world wonï¿½t weed out those that would take advantage of the system. Oh but donï¿½t worry, weï¿½ll put that Air France pilot with a bad sense of humor in jail and you will be so much safer when you fly. What a terrible injustice to those 88 souls. What a terrible injustice to those individuals who choose to fly in the future. Another day in the airline industry- business as usual.
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