Dad of Preston plane crash victim condemns Boeing plea deal

By Yunus MullaBBC News

Family photograph Sam PegramFamily photograph

Humanitarian worker Sam Pegram died aboard a Boeing 737 Max airliner in Ethiopia in 2019

The father of an aid worker who died in a plane crash said a deal in the US courts, which means manufacturer Boeing will avoid being prosecuted, was “devastating” for bereaved families.

Sam Pegram, from Penwortham, in Lancashire, was one of 346 people killed in two crashes involving Boeing aircraft in 2018 and 19.

His family wanted the company to face a criminal trial but now the plane-maker has agreed a deal with the courts to plead guilty to criminal fraud conspiracy and pay a criminal fine of $243.6m (£190m).

Sam’s father, Mark Pegram, said there was “zero accountability” for the lives lost in the “sweetheart deal”.

Mark Pegram sitting in a room with family photographs including ones of his son Sam

Mark Pegram says there is “no accountability for the 346 lives lost” in the plea deal

By pleading guilty, Boeing will avoid a criminal trial, if the settlement is agreed by a US judge.

A Boeing 737 Max plane operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in October 2018 shortly after take-off, killing all 189 people on board.

Just months later, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew, of which Sam was one.

In 2021, prosecutors charged Boeing with one count of conspiracy to defraud regulators, alleging it had deceived the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about its MCAS flight control system, which was implicated in both crashes.

It agreed not to prosecute Boeing if the company paid a penalty and successfully completed a three-year period of increased monitoring and reporting.

But in January, shortly before that period was due to end, a door panel in a Boeing plane operated by Alaska Airlines blew out soon after take-off and forced the jet to land.

No-one was injured during the incident but it intensified scrutiny over how much progress Boeing had made on improving its safety and quality record.

As part of the new deal, Boeing must also invest $455m (£355m) in “compliance and safety programs” and be monitored for three years.

Mr Pegram, who now lives in York, said: “It’s not enough.

“There’s no accountability for the 346 lives lost. The deaths aren’t even mentioned.”

He said bereaved families want Boeing “to be held to account for what they have done and also act as a deterrent for others”.

He said: “Unfortunately, it is a take it or leave it; the judge hasn’t got the flexibility to amend elements of the plea deal so we will be arguing that he should throw that plea deal out.”

‘Make a difference’

Last year West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield ruled the three British people who died in the 2019 crash – Sam Pegram, Oliver Vick and Joanna Toole – were unlawfully killed.

Mr Pegram described his 25-year-old son at the inquest as a kind, compassionate man with an infectious sense of humour.

“He had a passion for human rights, but also had the drive and inner strength to make a difference,” Mr Pegram said.

The family has set up the Sam Pegram Humanitarian Foundation to provide support services for refugees and early career humanitarians both in the UK and in Jordan where the aid worker spent two years of his life.

The foundation has launched the Sam Pegram Scholarship in his memory at the University of York where he graduated. It provides funding for an international student to study for an LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice.

The charity has also organised fundraisers for Sir Tom Finney Soccer Centre to help refugees and asylum seekers access football in Preston.

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