Canadian man whose family died in 737 Max crash testifies to U.S. lawmakers probing Boeing
Before flying to Washington to climb the steps of Congress and testify to a crowd of aviation experts and lawmakers this week, Paul Njoroge spent a desolate weekend packing away toys his children would never play with again.
All three of them — chubby baby Rubi, four-year-old songstress Kelli, and six-year-old Ryan, who dreamed of being an astronaut — were killed alongside his wife Carolyne and mother-in-law Anne on Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 on March 10.
"My family was my life. That was my life taken away from me. Within six minutes," the 35-year-old investment professional said. "I don't know if that will ever stop. I'll think about those six minutes every day of my life. So my life will never be normal again."
The crash of the new Boeing 737 Max model, six minutes after takeoff, came months after the same model crashed in Indonesia. Preliminary reports in both cases highlighted the role of an automated system that erroneously pointed the plane's nose down as pilots struggled to override it. The two crashes killed 346 people.
Njoroge, like many of the victims' families, has filed a lawsuit accusing Boeing Co. of negligence.
He has not been able to work since the crash, which occurred during his family's visit to their native Kenya.
Getting justice is the only thing that gets him out of bed in the morning, he said.
"Every time when I'm walking along the streets and I see people with their children playing and having some joyful moments, I miss my children a lot. I miss my wife a lot," he said. "When I see a couple walking together holding hand, holding hands."
He testifies in Congress at Wednesday's hearing, along with Dana Schulze, acting director of the National Transportation Safety Board's Office of Aviation Safety, and officials from aviation workers' unions. Boeing has not yet been called to testify.
In an emailed statement, Boeing said it deeply regretted the loss of lives and would work with communities, customers and the aviation industry to help the healing process. "These incidents and the lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come," it said.
Njoroge said he wanted Congress to probe not only Boeing, but the certification process of the U.S. government's Federal Aviation Administration, which deemed the plane safe.
"So it's up to them to make sure that the FAA is fully funded and that it's functional enough and that it's doing that the authority's doing what they're supposed to be doing, and that is to be an oversight.. to make sure that Boeing is doing what what they're supposed to be doing," he said.
Boeing's 737 Max was grounded worldwide after the Ethiopian crash in March. Before the model is approved to fly again, Njoroge said he and other families want recertification of the entire plane, whose original design dates to the 1960s. Grounding the model after the first crash would have saved his family, he said.
Now all that is left are boxes — filled with children's art work and toys — that he hopes to be strong enough to look at again one day.