Boeing faces lawsuit after January crash of 737 in Indonesia

Herrmann Law Group of Seattle is representing 16 families of the crash victims,

A new lawsuit against Boeing claims that a malfunctioning auto-throttle system may be to blame for the tragic crash of a 737-500 into the Java Sea in January, killing all 62 people on board. 

The suit was filed against the aerospace company on Thursday in Seattle, with the Herrmann Law Group representing 16 families of the crash victims, The Seattle Times reports.

Members of a search and rescue team conduct operations at sea near Lancang island on January 10, 2021, where a Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crashed shortly after the jet took off from Jakarta airport on January 9. (ADEK BERRY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Jan. 9, the domestic Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182 departed Jakarta for Pontianak, in Indonesia, and plunged into the sea five minutes after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, per Q13 Fox. There was heavy rain that afternoon, the Associated Press reports, and the Boeing 737-524 reportedly disappeared from radar just four minutes after the pilot called in to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet. 

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Though the exact cause of the crash remains unclear, early investigations indicate the wreck may be linked to the aircraft’s auto-throttle system, per Q13 Fox.  

Indonesian National Search And Rescue Agency personnel carry body bags containing body parts of the victims of Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 after being recovered from the sea at the port of Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta on January 11, 2021. (Aditya Ir

Now, the families of the victims – all residents of Indonesia – are suing the world's largest aerospace company, seeking damages and alleging Boeing’s negligence as a cause of the crash. 

The fatal flight's aircraft, a 737-524, was built in 1994, and sat parked for nine months after air travel screeched to a halt in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic began. However, Indonesian aviation officials gave it "a new certificate of airworthiness" in December 2020, allowing its return to service, the Seattle Time reports. 

A rescue team member in front of a photo of a Sriwijaya Air plane at command center, Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 11, 2021. (Solo Imaji/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

A preliminary report from the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee shows that pilots had "repeatedly reported issues" with the aircraft’s auto-throttle before the Jan. 9 tragedy. In response, "technicians attempted to rectify the problem by cleaning switches and connectors," according to the outlet. 

"This is a major public safety issue. As the manufacturer of the plane, Boeing has an ongoing duty to warn airlines and instruct airlines to help them keep the planes safe, said attorney Mark Lindquist of the Herrmann Law Group.

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"In this instance, you have at least two problems where Boeing failed to give adequate warnings and instructions. Number one, the parking of the planes during this pandemic and number two, the repeated problems with the auto throttle."

In its most recent public statement on Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ-182, Boeing said the following: 

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of the crew and passengers on Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones," the aerospace manufacturer said. "Our technical experts continue to assist with the investigation and we will provide support needed during this difficult time." 

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A spokesperson for Boeing added to Q13 that "it would be inappropriate to comment while our technical experts continue to assist with the investigation, or on any pending litigation."

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In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet, operated by Lion Air, nosedived into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta. All 189 people on board were killed.

The January Sriwijaya Air plane crash did not have the automated flight-control system that factored into the Lion Air crash, and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later. 

Those two crashes led to the global grounding of the MAX, a new iteration of Boeing's widely-flown single-aisle aircraft. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.