AIR TRAGEDY

Angry Spanair victims’ group plans on seeking justice outside of Spain

Families furious at Madrid court’s decision to drop charges against mechanics Judge rules this week that victims groups must seek claims in civil court

Angry over a Madrid court’s decision to drop a criminal case into the fatal 2008 Spanair crash at Barajas International Airport, survivors and the families of the victims of the disaster have said they will seek justice outside of Spain.

“We are not going to be let down by the [Madrid High Court’s] decision, and we plan on finding the justice that was denied to us outside of Spain. This is far from over,” said Pilar Vera, president of the Association of Victims of Flight JK5022.

The August 20, 2008 accident resulted in the deaths of 154 people, including the two pilots and crew on board. Only 18 passengers survived the crash, which took place on takeoff.

Vera, who was in Canada this week for a meeting of families who have lost loved ones in air crashes, said in a phone interview that she was “outraged” by Wednesday’s court ruling. However, she didn’t say where the group intends to seek justice.

The Madrid High Court, which had provisionally charged two mechanics with negligent homicide last December, has now put the blame on the pilots, Antonio García Luna and Francisco Mulet, both deceased, for forgetting to deploy the flaps and slats that would have lifted the aircraft on takeoff.

Judge Juan Javier Pérez ruled that the survivors and loved ones of the victims should seek compensation through civil claims.

Until now, Spanair’s insurance has paid out about 10 million euros in claims.

Vera, who lost a niece in the accident, said that the judge’s decision sets “a dangerous precedent” because the court relies on a “discredited” report by the Public Works Ministry’s CIAIAC investigation team, which lays the blame on the pilots.

The mechanics, Felipe García and José Antonio Viñuelas, were originally charged for failing to get to the root of the problem with an air temperature probe (RAT) and the failure of the aircraft’s TOWS alarm system, which didn’t go off.

The victims’ association had been pushing for criminal charges to be filed against Spanair executives, AENA airport administrators, and officials from plane manufacturer McDonnell Douglas but the court ruled against it.

Vera has also attacked the central government for not doing enough to help the victims and their families, such as with a support plan, during the four years since the Spanair flight crashed.

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