Indictment expected today in fatal 1996 Valujet crash
July 13, 1999
MIAMI (CNN) -- Criminal charges are expected to be announced Tuesday in connection with the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592, which killed 110 people when the plane plunged into the Florida Everglades.
Sources have told CNN that Valujet -- now merged with AirTran -- is not expected to be named in the indictment.
The doomed plane was en route from Miami to Atlanta when it crashed, killing all on board. While ValuJet owned and operated the DC-9, it contracted the maintenance work to Phoenix-based SabreTech Inc.
In 1998, the Federal Aviation Administration fined SabreTech $2.25 million for improperly preparing oxygen canisters for shipment on the plane. Investigators concluded that one or more of the generators ignited in the cargo hold and caused the May 11, 1996 crash.
The generators trigger a chemical reaction that produces oxygen for passengers' use if a plane loses cabin pressure. The reaction produces temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius).
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said SabreTech packed, labeled and delivered more than 100 oxygen-generator canisters to a ValuJet ramp agent, who loaded them on the plane. The investigators said the devices were improperly packed and mislabeled.
Many of the canisters were missing safety caps, and the jet's cargo manifest listed them as being empty when they were actually full, investigators said.
In addition, the NTSB report, issued in August 1997, cited ValuJet for failing to properly oversee its contract maintenance program and ensure that contractors complied with maintenance, training and hazardous material requirements.
ValuJet and SabreTech blamed each other for the missteps that led to the canisters being put on the plane.
SabreTech attorney Kenneth Quinn had told CNN his client was cooperating with investigators.
"We don't believe any evidence exists of willful and criminal behavior. We intend to defend ourselves against any criminal charges vigorously," Quinn said.
Quinn said the NTSB found three culprits in its probe: "ValuJet, the FAA and SabreTech." He wondered why the federal government should not be held responsible for failing to mandate fire-suppression systems.
Criminal charges expected in 1996 ValuJet crash
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