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FAA Officials Surprised At Northwest’s Refusal To Release Passenger List With PM-Plane

August 19, 1987

FAA Officials Surprised At Northwest’s Refusal To Release Passenger List With PM-Plane Crash, Bjt

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Northwest Airlines reaffirmed its refusal to make public a passenger list from Sunday’s crash at the Detroit airport, saying it wanted to protect the victims’ families from harassment.

″To the extent we can, we want to spare the families that sort of grief,″ Northwest spokesman Bob Gibbons said Tuesday.

Northwest’s refusal to release the list could delay disclosure of a complete tally of the victims of until Friday, when Wayne County (Mich.) Medical Examiner Werner Spitz has said he would reveal the names.

Airlines are required to keep a manifest of passengers but are not required to make the list public, said Jerry Jones, special assistant to the general counsel at the Federal Aviation Administration.

But John Leyden, an FAA spokesman in Washington, said he knew of no precedent for not releasing a list. ″And I’ve been here for over 20 years,″ he said.

In Michigan, Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara described the lack of a public list as ″a great source of irritation,″ the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

But Gibbons said releasing the list of passengers of Flight 255 could provide solicitors an easy method to contact family members, Gibbons said.

In the past, relatives of crash victims have become burglary victims during funerals, and unsolicited ″grief counselors″ have badgered families to undergo treatment, he said. Calls from lawyers also have been a problem, he said.

Gibbons said no passenger list was released by Southern Airways when its Flight 242 crashed in 1977 in New Hope, Ga., killing more than 60 people.

Northwest has no established policy on releasing passenger lists because the airline has not experienced a major air disaster in 24 years, he said. The airline did identify the six crew members and three off-duty Northwest employees on Flight 255.

Rachel Halterman, the National Transportation Safety Board’s director of public affairs, told the Detroit Free Press that an Italian government official who asked if any Italians were on Flight 255 was given a Washington number to call.

The number was Ms. Halterman’s.

The NTSB called a meeting with the FAA and Northwest, and later a Northwest official told the Italian official that the airline didn’t believe any of his countrymen were on the flight.

Officials from two other airlines said their policy was to release passenger lists as soon as family members of crash victims are notified.

″Contacting family members is very important,″ said Matt Gonring, a spokesman for United Airlines in Chicago. ″But once we complete it, then we release the names.″

Mary Raymond, corporate communications officer for American Airlines in Dallas, said her department usually releases the passenger list within a day or two of a crash.

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