Thursday, some of the families of the 346 people killed in two plane crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets will get their chance to talk about the impact of that tragedy in a federal courtroom in Fort Worth.
Among them is Michael Stumo who lost his 24-year-old daughter Samya Stumo.
“She was charismatic. She was beautiful. She was very family oriented, very intelligent,” said Stumo.
Stumo said Samya taught herself to read at age 3. By 7, she was raising pigs on the family’s farm. At 9, she was driving a tractor. And at 14, Stumo’s only daughter enrolled in college.
Eventually, Samya went on to the University of Copenhagen School of Global Health before returning home to the U.S.
In March of 2019, she was headed to eastern Africa to establish nonprofit medical clinics.
“She sent us a text that she just got to Addis Ababa and was waiting for the plane to go to Nairobi. ‘Talk to you soon.’ And that’s the last we heard from her,” said Stumo.
Samya was among 157 people killed when a Boeing 737 Max-8 plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia just months after a similar crash in Indonesia killed 189.
Boeing later attained immunity from criminal prosecution in both cases as part of a plea deal with the Justice Department.
But Thursday, in a Fort Worth federal court, Stumo, and other families from around the world, will argue that “agreement clearly violated their rights as victims,” as Boeing is arraigned on a felony criminal charge.
It’s a nearly unprecedented situation, according to attorney and former federal prosecutor Matthew Yarbrough, who’s not associated with the case.
“That’s a rarity. You don’t see that very often. Typically, when we think of criminal indictments, they’re about individuals who are sentenced and go to jail.” said Yarbrough.
Boeing declined to comment Wednesday. Back in November, it said that it opposes any effort to reopen the agreement, calling it “unprecedented, unworkable, and inequitable.” It also noted it has been complying with the agreement for nearly two years.
Today, the company’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, spoke with CNBC.
“My reaction to the families is always the same. Just nothing but heartbreak. I think we all can imagine how tough and difficult that would be. Any and every hearing they want to express those views is ok with me,” said Calhoun. “And it’s a good reminder to our whole Boeing franchise, our company, our industry, how important safety is for all of us and to continue to get ahead of it. And that’s how we think about it. With respect to the legal proceeding itself that’s not a subject I’m qualified to talk about.”