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Lawyer: Tentative Settlement Reached In Avianca Crash

November 17, 1992

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ The federal government will share blame in the 1990 Avianca Airlines jet crash that killed 73 people after the plane ran out of fuel, according to a tentative settlement announced Monday.

It came after three days of testimony in a non-jury trial to decide more than 150 lawsuits, which accused the Colombian airline and U.S. air-traffic controllers of negligence.

″I’m ecstatic for the people who have obviously suffered a tremendous loss,″ said Marc Moller, an attorney for survivors and victims’ families. ″This was a wholly avoidable tragedy.″

The settlement, which remains under court seal, holds the federal government liable for a share of compensation, Moller said. He didn’t disclose what that share was.

Moller said the final amount to be paid won’t be known until all of the individual claims are settled, but the figure could exceed $200 million.

George Tompkins, an attorney for Avianca, said: ″The airline and the government have agreed to see to it that all of the families of the passengers and those who survived are 100 percent compensated. How we split it up is really no concern to them.″

Pilots of Avianca Flight 52 were in a holding pattern over John F. Kennedy Airport and knew the plane was running low on fuel, but never told controllers they faced a ″fuel emergency,″ a term that would have given the flight landing priority.

The New York-bound flight from Medellin, Colombia, crashed into a hillside in the Long Island community of Cove Neck. The Boeing 707 jet carried 149 passengers and nine crew; 73 died, the remaining 85 were injured.

Federal investigators blamed the crash primarily on the Avianca crew, contending that the pilots did not adequately convey fuel conditions.

But National Transportation Safety Board investigators also concluded controllers contributed by not fully grasping the pilots’ fuel concerns.

The agreement reached Friday was placed on the record Monday before U.S. District Judge Thomas Platt, Moller said. It must be approved by U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr and several insurance companies.

U.S. Justice Department officials in Washington couldn’t be reached after business hours Monday evening.

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