Two years after a light plane strayed into the congested airspace over Los Angeles, clipped off the tail of an Aeromexico DC-9 and sent both planes plunging into the suburbs below, killing 82 people, the trial has begun to determine who was responsible.
Attorneys for the victims made opening statements in U.S. District Court Tuesday, with lawyers for the airline and the U.S. government expected to outline their cases Wednesday.The National Transportation Safety Board has already concluded that the majority of the blame lies with the U.S. air traffic control system, but that decision is not admissable in the trial.
The victims' side blames the federally employed air traffic controller guiding Flight 498 on Aug. 31, 1986, and said Tuesday they would show he did not warn the jetliner crew of an impending disaster.
Aeromexico and the families of all crash victims are suing the U.S. government. The federal government and the families also are suing Aeromexico, contending its pilots were negligent. The estate of the pilot of the small plane, William Kramer, was dropped as a defendant, although the federal jury will decide his liability. The suits are consolidated into one case.
The minutes leading up to the crash that killed all 64 people aboard the DC-9, all three aboard the private plane and 15 people on the ground in suburban Cerritos were recreated for the jury Tuesday.
Lawyer Marshall Morgan, representing families of Aeromexico passengers, said he will call a witness who watched from her backyard as Kramer's Piper Archer hit the tail of the jet, ripping off the small plane's cabin and sending Flight 498 plunging upside down into Cerritos, where it destroyed several houses.