Family of SilkAir crash victim welcomes
US$43 million payout

  Agence France Presse
July 9, 2004

A US court's decision to award US$43.6 million to the relatives of three people who died in the 1997 crash of a SilkAir jet has been hailed by one of the victims' families here as "justice".

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury found on Thursday, July 8, that defects in the Boeing 737's rudder control system caused the accident, which claimed the lives of all 104 passengers and crew on board SilkAir flight MI185.

SilkAir is the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

The plane crashed in Indonesia on its way from Jakarta to Singapore on December 17, 1997, and an Indonesian inquiry had failed to determine why it suddenly fell from its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (10,606 metres).

The US National Transportation Safety Board had said the pilot deliberately crashed the plane, but the Los Angeles jury rejected that finding.

It ordered Parker Hannifin Corp, the rudder's manufacturer and the biggest maker of hydraulic equipment in the world, to pay the damages to the families of three of the victims, including Singaporean Merleen Tan.

Singapore's the Straits Times newspaper quoted Friday Tan's parents as saying they had never believed a suicidal pilot was responsible for the crash.

"At least my daughter didn't simply leave us without a reason. There's justice for her," the paper quoted Tan's mother, identified only as Mrs Tan, as saying after hearing the verdict.

Tan was a 28-year-old manager with Levi Strauss when she died.

The other two victims whose families will receive a share of the payout were Singaporean Soen Lay Heng, 41, who ran a printing business, and Kenneth Wilson, a Scottish engineer who had been living in Indonesia.

The families of other victims will reportedly file similar claims following the verdict, although Parker Hannifin Corp intends to appeal.

A SilkAir spokeswoman was unavailable to immediately comment on Friday about the verdict.