Remembering Flight 261

This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which plunged into the Pacific because the airline didn’t replace a worn “jackscrew” that control the jet’s horizontal stabilizer — equivalent to losing steering control in your car.

This week, relatives of some of the 88 passengers and crew talked to the Seattle Times about a pain that doesn’t goes away, much of which — an article today says — was caused by lawyers:


They were using us to do their thing, and that thing was money,” Mark Hall said.

Some families who lost men had to deal with fraudulent claims of paternity — from women in India and Central America — that had to be defended. The claimants were looking to reap money from any financial settlement with the airline.

Insurance companies for the airlines, trying to quantify the loss, tried to make people put pricetags on their children, spouses, parents and siblings. The victims suddenly were defined by their jobs and potential earnings.

Kathy Janosik, Rachel’s mother, said attorneys for the insurance companies made the families feel they had to defend their loved ones’ worth.

“My son was an artist,” Pierrette Ing said. “Does that mean his life had less value? What about the grandbabies I might have had?”

Family members did receive settlements, but the amounts, which were not made public, varied.

But, as the Discovery Channel documentary above shows, most of the anger of the families is reserved for the airline that cut corners, and a government agency that didn’t do its job.

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