Crew members' families sue Boeing, parts makers

LOS ANGELES - The families of EgyptAir Flight 990's crew sued the airplane's manufacturer and parts makers Wednesday, claiming mechanical malfunctions and not a pilot's suicide doomed the airplane.

Some aviation experts have suggested that co-pilot Gameel El Batouty deliberately crashed the Boeing 767 on Oct. 31, an idea Egyptian authorities have denied.

All 217 people aboard, including 101 Americans, died when the airliner plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts' Nantucket Island, about 40 minutes into its flight from New York to Cairo.

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation and has not reached a conclusion about the cause of the disaster, agency spokesman Keith Holloway said.

NTSB Chairman James Hall, however, has testified before Congress that the plane's movements were ''consistent with a deliberate action on the part of one of the crew members.''

A lawyer representing the families of five crew members disputes that contention, saying there is no conclusive physical evidence or motive to support it.

''Despite all the rumors that have gone all over the world about the suicide, it doesn't make any sense,'' the attorney, Gerald C. Sterns, said. ''We think it's a mechanical issue. What I can't do is pinpoint it at this point.''

Sterns filed the Superior Court lawsuit in Los Angeles, where the flight originated before heading to New York.

The families are seeking an unspecified amount for wrongful death, mental anguish and other damages.

None of the victims' families in Egypt knew how much the attorneys would seek, said Walid Batouty, nephew of the late co-pilot and spokesman for his family.

''They are not interested in material things,'' Batouty said from Cairo. ''All the families want to know is the truth.''

The Batouty family has strenuously denied that the co-pilot had a suicide motive. Families of the other crew members also don't believe the co-pilot is responsible, Sterns said.

Boeing officials wouldn't respond directly to the lawsuit because they hadn't seen it.

''We've got a lot of faith in the 767 and its safety systems,'' company spokesman Russ Young said.

A spokesman for engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, also named in the suit, said company policy is to avoid responding publicly to lawsuits but said the aircraft's engines have never been implicated in the EgyptAir crash.


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