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Opinion: My husband was killed in a Boeing plane crash. Families like mine deserve accountability

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Perspectives Naoise Connolly Ryan
Mick was just a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday when he died, and in a way, his life was just beginning. He was the global deputy chief engineer at the United Nations’ World Food Programme, building and designing infrastructure in the middle of conflict zones and in the wake of natural disasters. We had a 3-year-old girl, Saorlaith, and a baby boy, Macdara. Mick was the heart and soul of our family.
Mick Ryan with his two children, Saorlaith and Macdara, in 2019.Mick Ryan with his two children, Saorlaith and Macdara, in 2019.
Now, watching Boeing boast of its plane’s return — Boeing says it has met requirements to make the plane fit to fly — and reelect the same people who oversaw this travesty is a slap in the face. Boeing just hosted its annual shareholder meeting, which included a customary vote on its board of directors. Of the members who were elected, six of them were on the board when Flight 302 crashed and when Lion Air flight 610 crashed in 2018.
While families like mine seek to hold Boeing accountable in court, Boeing has profits to chase and shareholders to please. Much more needs to be done to root out the individuals and the culture they fostered that created this problem. Boeing needs new leadership and a change in mindset, and aviation regulators internationally need to bolster their own oversight and enforcement, now with the understanding that Boeing can no longer be trusted to essentially self-certify its aircraft as it did with the Max.
Two years after the crash, we still do not have a full accounting of what happened and why. An investigation from a US Senate Committee found that Boeing “improperly influenced” a test as part of the Max’s recertification. It also found that the FAA failed to hold employees accountable for oversight lapses, while its senior leaders may have obstructed investigations into the crashes.
Naoise Connolly Ryan after her late husband, Mick Ryan, won the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award 2020.Naoise Connolly Ryan after her late husband, Mick Ryan, won the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award 2020.
The information we do have exposes a company with a culture that put profits over safety — seeking to deflect blame onto the pilots and shielding information from regulators about the flawed software system that plunged both planes to their catastrophic end. Former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, was ousted with more than $80 million in stock option and assets.
In an email, a company spokesperson said, “We offer our sincere condolences to the loved ones of the passengers and crew aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and the memory of those lost drives us every day to work toward ensuring the highest levels of safety and quality in everything we do. Boeing has implemented changes that are designed to ensure accidents like these will never happen again, and these changes have been validated by regulatory agencies.”
My daughter died in a Boeing crash a year ago. Unsafe planes need to stay groundedMy daughter died in a Boeing crash a year ago. Unsafe planes need to stay grounded
But Boeing has not remotely been held to account. Days before the Trump administration departed, the US Department of Justice let Boeing off the hook with a fine that critics have described as a slap on the wrist — the cost of doing business as it again starts selling the 737 Max to airlines willing to buy them, hoping passengers forget about its history.
While Boeing’s refusal to take real responsibility and be transparent continues to deeply sadden and enrage me, it is unfortunately not surprising. Just last month Boeing announced it was again grounding some Max aircraft, now due to an electrical issue.
Mick Ryan in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, for his work as global deputy chief engineer at the United Nations' World Food Programme, building and designing infrastructure during the Rohingya refugee crisis. The Cox's Bazaar camp is the largest refugee camp in the world.Mick Ryan in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, for his work as global deputy chief engineer at the United Nations' World Food Programme, building and designing infrastructure during the Rohingya refugee crisis. The Cox's Bazaar camp is the largest refugee camp in the world.
Boeing’s dreams of a sky filled with 737 Maxes may come true, but my nightmare continues. My daughter has night terrors and blames herself for not trying harder to make Mick stay the day he boarded that flight. On her 4th birthday she wished “daddy would come back down”; this year she stopped making wishes because “they don’t come true.” My son will never know his dad or get to experience the joy and love that he shared in abundance.
Like the hundreds of other families devastated by Boeing’s callousness, our loved ones are the reason we continue this fight. While regulators and governments may bend to Boeing, we will not stop until we receive the transparency and accountability that we deserve.
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