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Crash Victims’ Families Sue JAL, Boeing, Transport Ministry

April 13, 1986

TOKYO (AP) _ Families of victims of the Japan Air Lines crash that killed 520 people aboard a Boeing 747SR filed suit Saturday against 12 officials of the airline, the Boeing Co. and the Japanese Transport Ministry.

The suit was filed in the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Kuniko Miyajima, acting director of the ″8-12 Group,″ named for the month and day of last year’s crash in mountains northwest of Tokyo, said the suit charged the officials with professional negligence.

She said the 12 were accused of ″involuntary wounding and manslaughter through negligence″ and ″inviting aviation danger.″ She said the suit sought to establish criminal responsibility for the crash but did not ask for monetary compensation.

Ms. Miyajima, whose 9-year-old son Ken was killed in the crash, said 583 members of 159 families, representing 190 crash victims, filed the suit.

At the same time, 9,783 politicians, scholars and intellectuals who support the group filed a sympathy petition to the office, she said.

The jumbo jetliner, on a one-hour domestic flight Aug. 12 from Tokyo to the western city of Osaka, began to lose control soon after leaving Haneda airport in Tokyo. It pitched and yawed for about 30 minutes as most of its 30-foot tailfin and all its hydraulic controls dropped off.

Four survivors - two women and two young girls - were rescued from the wreckage the next morning.

Nobuyuki Kawakami, chairman of the group set up last February, said in a nationally televised inerview that ″the cause of the crash is still unclear. To be frank, it seems nothing is being done about it.″

JAL released a statement Saturday by its president, Susumu Yamaji, who said: ″This complaint is an acute reminder of the seriousness of the accident, in the light of official investigations which are still in progress.″

Five JAL officials including Nihachiro Hanamura, its chairman, and former JAL president Yasumoto Takagi were accused in Saturday’s suit. Also named were Boeing’s chairman T.A. Wilson and president F.A. Shrontz, and five ministry officials including former Transport Minister Tokuo Yamashita.

In the suit, the group claims JAL failed to maintain ″appropriate measures to predetermine any damage on the plane’s body leading to the accident,″ Ms. Miyajima said.

The suit accused Boeing, the plane’s maker, of committing ″a serious mistake″ in earlier repairs to the plane, and accused the Transport Ministry of failing to supervise the plane properly before allowing it to fly.

No conclusions have been made concerning the cause of the accident.

The Transport Ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission released an interim report in March saying evidence supported earlier speculation that a rupture in the bulkhead caused the back of the plane to disintegrate.

Ms. Miyajima quoted the suit as saying that ″the negligence of the three parties combined to cause the destruction of the rear-aft pressure bulkhead.″

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