Flight 103 Victims’ Families Protest Relaunch of Pan Am
NEW YORK (AP) _ A plan to return Pan Am’s name to the skies is being challenged by the families of the victims of a terrorists’ bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Families of the victims of the 1988 crash hope to raise doubts over whether the new Pan Am and Martin Shugrue, head of the new effort and chief operating officer before the crash, are fit to fly.
Before the carrier can get off the ground, executives of the new airline have to get permission from the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.
``It’s an outrage they would even consider coming back,″ said Aphrodite Tsairis of Franklin Lakes, N.J., who lost a 20-year-old daughter in the crash and was one of about 200 members of a civil suit that won damages from the airline.
``There’s a certain aura the airline had that was clearly ruined on December 21, 1988, and when it was made clear in a subsequent investigation that they didn’t follow safety standards,″ she said.
A jury ruled in July 1992 that Pan Am was responsible for allowing a bomb aboard the flight. The old Pan Am has since been found liable for $500 million in damages, and about 20 cases are still outstanding, said Lee Kreindler, attorney for about half the victims’ families. Pan Am has not been accused of any criminal misconduct in the bombing.
Kreindler and the families claim Shugrue was responsible for a decision to X-ray baggage that isn’t matched to passengers, rather than search them by hand.
According to a 1992 court deposition by Pan Am’s former assistant security chief Daniel Sonesen, Shugrue decided to X-ray any suspicious bags. Although he had left Pan Am before the crash, that decision allowed the bomb to get on board, the jury found.
Shugrue did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday.
Investors put together by Shugrue announced last week that they want to resurrect the airline’s name. They intend to begin flying under the Pan Am logo by summer, serving a handful of major U.S. cities and linking up with small foreign airlines.
``Should this guy be starting another airline? They knowingly violated the law,″ said Richard Mack of Evanston, Ill., whose brother died in the crash.
``What disaster is going to happen next, especially with a low-cost airline where they have to keep costs to a minimum?″ he said.
Rosemary West who lives in Alexandria, Va., said she was organizing a petition to the Transportation Department and that many families have planned to picket any Pan Am ticket offices. Her 20-year-old step-daughter was killed in the crash.
``If there are hearings, we’ll testify. We’re certainly not going to make it easy for Pan Am to fly,″ she said.
Her sentiments were joined by the Cohen family of Cape May Courthouse, N.J., who also lost a 20-year-old daughter.
``If they’re coming to New York, coming out of Kennedy (airport), we’ll be there,″ Daniel Cohen said. ``We want to remind every passenger ... that this cannot be denied or forgotten.″