DOJ opens criminal investigation after Boeing 737 door blowout, interviews Alaska Airlines crew

News & Politics

The Department of Justice has reportedly opened a criminal investigation after the Boeing 737 blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight. The catastrophe occurred while the plane was 16,000 feet in the air, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Investigators have reached out to passengers on the January 5 flight, which was forced to make an unexpected landing in Portland, Oregon, after a fuselage panel was torn off in mid-flight. Additionally, the Justice Department has interviewed flight attendants and pilots who were on the flight.

Following the incident, Alaska Airlines said, “In an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation.”

The report noted that the probe would let the Justice Department know if Boeing had complied with a previous settlement that ended a federal investigation after two 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. Between the two crashes, 300 people were killed.

If it is revealed that the company did not meet the terms of the settlement, Boeing could be prosecuted for defrauding the U.S. The company has also been battling civil investigations concerning its jets, according to the Daily Mail.

Earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board noted that Boeing had not yet turned over documented evidence of the production and installation of the door plug under question.

The Hill reported that in a letter to Congress, Boeing acknowledged that it has been unsuccessful in finding records of the work done on the door panel for the Alaska Airlines plane.

Investigators involved in the case have started letting Alaska passengers on board the flight know that they are potential crime victims, according to the Journal. The report went on to suggest that criminal probes can cause complications when it comes to parallel aviation safety investigations.

The NTSB’s top official said last week that the Justice Department’s involvement in the case could cool its accident probe.

Jennifer Homendy, the safety board’s chair, said, “We don’t want to tell any other agency what they should or should not do.”

“Where it becomes a concern for us is when employees and others don’t feel safe to speak to us.”

The safety board said four important bolts were reportedly missing when the plane left the Boeing factory.

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