Angry relatives of the victims of ValuJet Flight 592 said Wednesday inaction by federal officials was largely to blame for last May’s fiery crash into the Florida Everglades.
Singled out for special criticism was the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to order the installation of fire-detection and fire-suppression systems in jetliners’ cargo holds.
Amanda Myers, who lost her parents in the crash, lambasted this week’s National Transportation Safety Board hearings, suggesting they had been staged and rehearsed to show that the aviation companies involved were blameless in the May 11 accident that killed all 110 aboard the twin-engine DC-9.
“The blame can be put on many people, but the FAA is really the watchdog and the FAA has not done their job,” Myers said at a news conference called during a recess in the hearings. “We want those fire detectors.”
NTSB officials say the cargo hold fire being blamed for the crash apparently was started by oxygen generators being carried as freight. The NTSB said the generators were mislabeled as non-hazardous, lacked caps that could have prevented their ignition and were loaded on the plane in violation of FAA regulations. Sabretech, a subcontrator that did maintenance work for ValuJet, has admitted mislabeling the generators and failing to install the caps.
“I am very angry,” said Marilyn Chamberlin, mother of Candalyn Kubeck, pilot of the jetliner.
“ValuJet Flight 592 fell out of the sky because of a complete breakdown of the system,” Chamberlin said. “We have a check-and-balance system starting with the FAA, (then) ValuJet, and the bottom line is Sabretech. … It was a tragedy of errors from start to finish.”
Katherine Hazen, widow of co-pilot Richard Hazen, said she and other relatives have had to learn “to control our anger, our frustration” at the hearings.
“It’s very difficult to sit here and listen to it.”