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Child’s Death Costs Airline $2.4M

July 17, 1998

MIAMI (AP) _ American Airlines was ordered today to pay $2.4 million to a New Jersey couple whose only child was killed in a crash blamed on the crew’s confusion about the jet’s location before it flew into a mountain in Colombia

Jamie and Lucy Montero of Eatontown, N.J, charged the airline with wrongful death in the crash that killed their son, Ernesto, a college student who was flying to visit his parents’ homeland for the first time.

Most of the 159 victims aboard Flight 965 from Miami to Cali, Colombia, were on their way to visit relatives for Christmas. All eight crew members were killed. Four passengers survived.

A federal judge had ruled the airline committed willful misconduct in the crash, which came on a clear night Dec. 20, 1995, opening the door to damages exceeding a $75,000-per-person liability cap under international treaty.

The first jury to hear a lawsuit filed over the crash awarded $565,000 to one family. Sixty-four victims’ families represented by another attorney settled with American for undisclosed amounts.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline initially acknowledged its pilots were partially at fault but later blamed an aircraft computer and Colombian air traffic controllers for the crash.

The Boeing 757 veered from the planned flight path as it approached Cali after a flight control computer was programmed incorrectly. The pilots continued descending even though they were confused about their location, according to cockpit tapes.

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