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Swissair Readies for Many Lawsuits

September 18, 1998

GLATTBRUGG, Switzerland (AP) _ Swissair expects dozens of lawsuits as a result of the crash of Flight 111, which killed all 229 people on board, airline officials said Friday.

Philippe Bruggisser, chief executive of the SAir Group parent company, said it would likely be weeks _ if not months _ before there were reliable clues about the cause of the Sept. 2 accident off the coast of Canada.

Speculation has focused on defective wiring in the cockpit after the pilot reported smoke in the cabin. Both flight data and cockpit voice recorders stopped six minutes before the plane plunged into the ocean. The MD-11 smashed into tiny pieces on impact.

The wiring question is likely to play a key role in future lawsuits against Swissair and Boeing Corp., which took over MD-11 manufacturer McDonnell Douglas.

So far only one lawsuit has been filed _ a claim for dlrs 50 million by former U.S. boxer Jake LaMotta, who lost his son.

Karin Anderegg Bigger, chief of SAir legal services, said the group expected dozens more to follow. There were many senior businessmen, scientists and U.N. personnel on the plane from New York to Geneva.

``We are well insured,″ said Bruggisser.

Anderegg Bigger said Swissair held preliminary talks with Canadian authorities and local fishermen Thursday on how to help 350 fishermen facing a financial crisis as a result of the accident.

The crash came at the height of the main fishing season and meant that some of Nova Scotia’s best fishing grounds have been sealed off for the duration of the investigation.

At a press conference near the Swiss city of Zurich, Bruggisser defended the record of the MD-11. Out of a worldwide total of 3.5 million flight hours there had been only two serious crashes _ the Swissair disaster and a crash involving a U.S. Federal Express carrier last year, in which pilot error was suspected.

He said 178 of the aircraft remained in operation worldwide.

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