FBI tells Alaska Airlines passengers they may be ‘victims of a crime’
FBI tells Alaska Airlines passengers they may be ‘victims of a crime’


Passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 that suffered a horrific mid-air explosion in January have received a letter from the FBI saying they may be victims of a “crime”.

Attorney Mark Lindquist, who represents multiple passengers who were on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, shared with CNN the letter the FBI’s Seattle office sent to the passengers on Tuesday.

“I am contacting you because we have identified you as a possible victim of a crime,” the letter read in part. It is also noted that the FBI is currently investigating the case.

“My clients and I welcome the DOJ investigation,” Lindquist told CNN, “We want accountability. We want answers. We want safer Boeing planes. And the Justice Department’s investigation is helping us achieve our goals.”

Attorney Robert Clifford, who represents many family members of the victims of the 2019 crash of a Boeing 737 Max plane operated by Ethiopian Air, as well as some of the last Alaska Air passengers, said some of his Alaska Air clients also have received the letter notifying them that they may be victims of crime.

“I’m sure everyone on the plane will get that letter,” he told CNN. “The families of the victims of Ethiopian Air should also have been considered victims of crimes.”

In addition to letters sent to passengers, flight attendants aboard Alaska Air Flight 1282 have been interviewed by Justice Department investigators, according to people familiar with the situation.

The letters were first reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

“The FBI is neither confirming nor denying the existence of an investigation,” the FBI’s public affairs office in Seattle wrote in an email to CNN, citing Justice Department policy.

But Justice opened an investigation into the incident and Boeing in February, CNN previously reported. That investigation carries the potential to change the controversial deferred prosecution agreement Boeing reached with the Justice Department in the final month of the Trump administration.

The settlement, which has been criticized by families of crash victims and members of Congress, was over allegations that Boeing defrauded the Federal Aviation Administration during the initial certification process for the 737 Max jets. Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion as part of that settlement, but most of that was money Boeing had already agreed to pay to the airlines that bought the Max planes, grounded for 20 months after the Ethiopian Air crash and more early disaster in Indonesia.

The deferred prosecution agreement could have ended the threat of Boeing facing criminal liability for those earlier fraud charges. But the Alaska Air incident occurred just days before the expiration of the three-year probation period, so the criminal investigation could expose Boeing to charges not only for the Alaska Air incident but also for earlier allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

Boeing declined to comment.

On January 5, 171 passengers and six crew members boarded a flight in Portland, Oregon bound for Ontario, California. Suddenly after takeoff, a fuselage panel called a “door plug” breaks off, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the plane delivered to Alaska by Boeing in October left the Boeing factory without the four bolts needed to hold the door stopper in place.

Although the NTSB has not yet assessed blame for the missing bolts, it criticized Boeing for not having documentation available showing who worked on the door stopper when the plane was at the Boeing factory.

The FAA also found multiple problems with the manufacturing practices of both Boeing and its main supplier Spirit AeroSystems after a six-week audit of Boeing prompted by the Jan. 5 door plug explosion.

Subpoenas were also recently issued by the Department of Justice seeking documents and information that may be related to Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems and refer to the “door plug” used in Boeing 737 Max 9s, according to a Bloomberg report.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told investors last month that “We caused the problem and we understand that. Whatever conclusions are reached, Boeing bears responsibility for what happened.

The development comes the same week that Boeing said it would post huge losses in the first quarter stemming from the Alaska Airlines incident.

The losses will be partly due to compensation for the airlines that owned the Max 9, which was grounded for three weeks after the accident. Alaska Air CEO Ben Minicucci told investors last month that the incident cost his airline about $150 million and that it expected to be compensated for those losses by Boeing.

The other reasons for the losses will be “all the things we do around the factory,” Chief Financial Officer Brian West said Wednesday, which will lead to slower production at the 737 Max plant in Renton, Washington.

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