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Brother of Ethiopian Airlines crash victim demands accountability

During a Seattle news conference Monday, Zekaria Shenkut says the death of his brother, Mulugeta Asfaw, in the Ethiopian Airlines crash has devastated the family.
Paula Wissel
/
KNKX
During a Seattle news conference Monday, Zekaria Shenkut says the death of his brother, Mulugeta Asfaw, in the Ethiopian Airlines crash has devastated the family.

A man whose brother died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash says he wants a full accounting of what went wrong with the Boeing 737 Max, from its design to its certification. His family has filed a lawsuit against Boeing and a legal complaint against the Federal Aviation Administration saying the agency failed to provide proper oversight.At a news conference in Seattle, Zekaria Shenkut struggled to hold back tears as he talked about his older brother, Mulugeta Asfaw, who died in the crash in Ethiopia on March 10. Shenkut, who lives near Kansas City, says his brother was always there for him.

"I owe my career, my education to him," he said.  He says his brother worked on clean water projects in Ethiopia, and was excited about it because he was helping others.

Shenkut says he spoke to Mulugeta shortly before his brother boarded the plane. "The day of the crash when he was in the airport, it was 8:18 when we hung up," he said.

The plane crashed at 8:44.

Shenkut says the tragedy has forever changed his life and that of Mulugeta's wife and three children. And, he says, they aren't the only ones. He stressed that 346 people have died on the 737 Max planes, which are built in Renton, in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. Shenkut says it's important to remember the human toll.

"People have to go and reach out to those families and those kids and we need on top of all that justice as well," he said.

He says that justice will come when people responsible are held accountable.  "I don't want anyone else to have to feel what I'm feeling," he said.

The suit, filed on behalf of the estate of Shenkut's brother, is one of many that have been filed since the crashes of the 737 Max planes. 

The claim against the FAA contends the agency conspired with Boeing to certify an unsafe plane. Seattle attorney Alisa Brodkowitz says reports show it didn't properly oversee development of the 737 Max.

"Over 300 people died and they're gone forever and we have an airplane that didn't tick off the regulatory boxes, so the FAA didn't do its job," Brodkowitz said.

In a statement, the FAA said it has "consistently produced safe aircraft designs." The suit was filed in Illinois, but Brodkowitz said they held the news conference in Seattle in hopes of encouraging whistleblowers to come forward who may have worked on the certification of the Boeing plane.