Politics

FBI tells passengers on Alaska flight they may have been victims of crime

Passengers on an Alaska Airlines plane that made an emergency landing after a fuselage panel exploded this year began receiving letters from the FBI identifying them as possible crime victims.

These letters are a sign that a criminal investigation has been carried out The Department of Justice opened up to Boeingthe manufacturer of the 737 Max 9 jet, is gaining momentum.

“As the Seattle Division Victim Specialist, I am contacting you because we have identified you as a possible victim of a crime,” read the letter from the FBI's Seattle office, a copy of which was released. obtained by the New York Times. The letter states that the incident is the subject of an FBI criminal investigation, but adds that such investigations can be lengthy and that “for several reasons, we cannot update you on its progress at this time.”

The panel of the flight, which carried 171 passengers and six crew members, exploded at an altitude of 16,000 feet, shortly after the plane left the Portland, Oregon, airport in early January. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report that the committee, known as a door stopper and used to fill the space that would have been taken up by an emergency exit door if the plane had included more seats, it was missing four bolts intended to hold it in place.

Steve Bernd, a spokesman for the FBI's Seattle office, declined to comment on the criminal investigation. Boeing also declined to comment. The company previously said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Mark Lindquist, an attorney for some of the passengers, said his clients welcomed the investigation. “We want answers, accountability and safer Boeing planes,” he said. “The DOJ is bringing a big hammer to bear to achieve these goals.”

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that investigators had contacted certain passengers and crew members.

The investigation is part of growing problems for Boeing, which include a recent Federal Aviation Administration audit that found found problems in its manufacturing process. The Ministry of Justice is also review a 2021 regulation of a criminal charge against the company stemming from fatal accidents involving its Max 8 planes. In that case, the department agreed to drop the charges in exchange for Boeing, the most of it in the form of compensation to customers.

Federal investigators said they were still working to obtain the names of the employees who worked on the door stopper that exploded. Boeing told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the National Transportation Safety Board that it could not find a record containing the information.

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