Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mourning the Ones at Fault

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held its final hearing today on the investigation of the crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo almost a year ago.  The investigation revealed that the crash was almost entirely due to errors by the flight crew.  They found that the pilot talked almost continuously through the flight, that the pilot and first officer were not alert to what was going on with the flight and that they did not act as their training had taught them to when the engine stalled.  They also specifically said that there was time for the crew to act, and they did not.

Most of the families of the victims of this crash sat up front during today's hearing, all wearing red as a symbol of their united front.  Families in these instances say that it is very important for them to know exactly what happened and why, and now they have their answer.  They also have someplace to place their anger, since what appeared to be random or caused by the weather was caused by the crew.

There was at least one family not sitting in the front, not dressed in red at today's hearing, and for them the issue of who is to blame is much more complicated.  Lynn Morris and Troy Shaw sat towards the back.  They are the mother and husband, respectively, of Rebecca Shaw, who also died on flight 3407.  She was the first officer.

It's hard enough when your loved one dies.  Harder still when they die a traumatic death.  But to learn that they were at fault, and that 50 people died because of their mistake, is incredibly complicated.  Who is Shaw's mother supposed to be mad at?  How can you be as mad at your family member as the other victims are and still love them?  That tension is incredibly hard.

Morris gave an interview to KIRO, a local TV station near where she lives in Washington state.  She said,
My heart is saying I would like there to be a reason I could understand and make sense of for all this and I'm not getting that sense of peace.
We can hardly blame her for wishing that this investigation had turned out differently.  Sometimes the truth is awfully hard to hear.

There probably isn't much anyone can say that will make this situation easier for the families of the crew.  I commend NTSB chair Deborah Hersman for trying, however.  At today's hearing, she commented,
As we speak about the flight crew, we remember that we’re talking about individuals. The actions in the last minutes of their lives are not representative of the whole of their lives.
Maybe that will give their families just a little glimpse of some peace.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at www.SchoolCrisisConsultant.com
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