Man who lost his entire family in Ethiopian 737 Max crash tells of his hearth-wrenching experiences

• Paul Njoroge lost his three children, his wife, and his mother-in-law in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash in March. It was the second of two deadly 737 Max crashes in the span of five months.

• Njoroge testified in front of a congressional hearing on aviation safety on Wednesday.

• He spoke with Business Insider after his testimony and described the pain he's felt every day since his family died and his thoughts on Boeing's actions before and after the crash.

"I think about their last six minutes a lot."

Since March, Paul Njoroge hasn't been able to work, sleep without nightmares, or go about his life without thinking about the final moments that his wife, his three children, and his mother-in-law were alive.

"My wife and mum-in-law knew they were going to die. They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments, knowing they were all their last. I wish I was there with them," he said.

Njoroge, a Canadian investment professional, lost his family in March, when the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane they were flying on crashed six minutes after taking off from Ethiopia — the second fatal crash involving a 737 Max in five months. Nine-month-old Rubi, 4-year-old Kelli, 6-year-old Ryan, their mother, Carolyne, and their grandmother Ann were heading to Kenya.

In the days following the crash, the aircraft was grounded worldwide and has yet to return to service.

Since then, life has become almost unbearable for Njoroge. He told Business Insider over the phone that he's had trouble with his short-term memory in recent months and often finds himself going about his days aimlessly — his sister often comes to help him remember what he needs to do and make sure he does it.

But more than that, it's the crushing sense of loss and grief that haunts him. He has trouble going to see friends with children, and even seeing parents with kids walking down the street.

"I want to be with my children; I want to be with my wife, but deep down in myself, I know that will never happen again," he said. "It's just so painful, it's a pain."

While the investigations into the two crashes — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — are ongoing, preliminary reports indicate that an automated system erroneously engaged and forced the planes' noses to point down. Pilots were unable to recover.

The automated system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane's nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.

Boeing has been accused of rushing the plane's design and cutting corners in order to bring it to market more quickly in an effort to remain competitive as its rival Airbus unveiled the latest generation of its A321 aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration has also come under scrutiny for certifying the plane without adequate oversight.

Njoroge testified in front of a congressional committee on aviation safety on Wednesday, along with Michael Stumo, whose 24-year-old daughter, Samya Stumo, also died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Along with many other victims' families, Njoroge has filed a lawsuit accusing Boeing of negligence.

During his testimony, Njoroge accused Boeing of distracting from the cause of the crash by raising the specter of pilot error and the idea that the FAA failed to properly regulate Boeing.

"I needed to let them see the faces of the real people who are going through this pain," he told Business Insider after giving his testimony. "And to be a voice for my wife, my children, my mom-in-law, and the families of the other victims."

A root of the issue is that the 737 Max was certified as an updated version of an existing plane, rather than a new design. That distinction meant that the Max underwent less scrutiny and pilot certification on the plane required less training — an obvious appeal for potential airline customers. During his testimony, Njoroge demanded that the Max be certified as a new plane, requiring all associated processes and training.

"The families demand that the 737 Max 8 be fully recertified as a new plane because it is too different from the original certified plane," he said during his testimony. "We demand that simulator training be required."

Boeing recently announced that it was creating a $100 million fundfor families of the victims, and it said on Wednesday that it had plans to begin distributing the first $50 million, independently of any legal proceedings. However, that does little to ease the grief faced by family members like Njoroge.

"Boeing is just trying to play some games in people's minds just like they played games with people's lives," he said. "They ought to have grounded the Max after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610."

Robert A. Clifford, an attorney representing more than 23 victims' families — including Njoroge — agreed.

"Even giving Boeing its due, it missed its mark," he said, "because they added a new layer of confusion to expedient and efficient relief to these families."


Compiled by Olalekan Adeleye

Business Insider

Rate this item
(0 votes)