Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

Pair unhappy with attitude in U.S. after Swissair crash

By Robert Russo / The Canadian Press

Washington - When Lyn Romano met with U.S. air safety officials Tuesday, she brought photos of her husband as well as pathologists' drawings of his shattered remains after the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

"I wanted them to realize they were dealing with human beings rather than just a number," Romano said.

Her husband, Raymond, was among the 229 people killed when the Geneva-bound Swissair MD-11 jet plummeted into the ocean off Peggy's Cove on Sept. 2, 1998.

Romano and Barbara Fetherolf, who lost her 16-year-old daughter Tara in the crash, came to Washington to push for safer airliners and greater sensitivity towards victims' families following a crash.

They left unsatisfied and angry after meeting White House representatives as well as a senior official of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

One of their fundamental objectives is to get airlines to make faster changes to the wiring and insulation blankets of jets around the world.

But the FAA would not budge from its directive giving airlines four years to check wiring and replace the flammable insulation blankets.

"Four years of these 'flying coffins' - that's my term for them - flying around, and it's just OK in their opinion," Romano complained after meeting with Thomas McSweeny, the FAA's head of aircraft regulation and certification.

Romano and Fetherolf also want better treatment for the families of airline passengers when a crash occurs.

Romano realized her husband likely had died aboard Swissair Flight 111 after watching a late local newscast. It took several agonizing hours for her to get confirmation from the airline that her husband was aboard.

Fetherolf said her daughter's dripping passport was fished out of the Atlantic and held aloft for television cameras.

"They showed her name and picture on network television," Fetherolf said. "What if I had been watching television at that moment?"

The passport and several of her daughter's other possessions were returned to her in an envelope stamped "freeze-dried."

They want a committee formed that includes a family member of an air crash victim to help families deal with many of the difficult issues surrounding recovery of victims and their personal effects following air accidents.

Romano has promised to take any settlement money she might get from the airline and put it towards a foundation she chairs that promotes greater air safety.

Many of the relatives of Swissair victims have decided to wait until the official accident investigation is over before commenting on these and other air safety issues surrounding the crash.

Copyright 1999 The Halifax Herald Limited