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Crash victims' families say TWA, Boeing use loophole to avoid payments

graphic July 10, 1997
Web posted at: 10:36 p.m. EDT (0236 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Relatives of some of the 230 people killed in the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 a year ago accused the airline and plane manufacturer of using a 77-year-old maritime law to avoid paying them compensation for the loss of their relatives.

The family members made the charge at a hearing Thursday of the House aviation subcommittee, that TWA and Boeing are relying on the "Death on the High Seas Act," limiting what families can receive in civil lawsuits. The law was enacted in 1920 to help widows of sailors lost at sea secure compensation for lost income.

Families from several aviation crashes are pushing for new legislation, and the subcommittee is expected a bill that would replace the old maritime law and be retroactive to cover families of the Flight 800 crash.

In other testimony, FBI official James Kallstrom said "All our efforts to date have failed to uncover any credible evidence that the loss of Flight 800 was a criminal act."

And a National Transportation Safety Board official said that despite disagreements over exactly how it happened, all the agencies investigating the crash agree that a center fuel tank explosion caused the crash.


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