Alaska Air hearing offers families hope


Herald Writer

Family and friends of some of the 88 victims of the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash are glad to see a potential cause emerging from a government investigation, but say that knowledge will do nothing to bring back their friends and relatives.

Relatives of Monroe crash victims Joseph and Linda Knight watched National Transportation Safety Board members in Washington, D.C., wrap up a four-day hearing into the Jan. 31 crash from a closed-circuit television connection in Bellevue, said Toni Knight, Joseph’s sister-in-law. The investigation has focused on a jackscrew that helps control the movement of the plane.

"We’re just angry with the fact that (Alaska) did not replace that part," Knight said. "Nothing has been proven, but we feel that Alaska’s maintenance made a grave error in not replacing it."

At the same time, the family is not bitter toward the airline, recognizes that Alaska has stepped up its inspections of the jackscrews, and is focusing instead on getting on with their lives, Knight said.

Jeff Knight, son of Joseph, has taken over his father’s job as senior pastor of the Rock Church in Monroe. His sister, Jenny, is now living with her brother and his wife.

Other friends of local crash victims said they hoped the investigation into the crash would allow airlines to make their planes safer.

"Maybe this has opened eyes for other airlines to look at their planes and maintenance and so forth," said Ernie Bellacy, a friend of Brier resident Harry Stasinos, who died in the crash along with his companion, Charlene Sipe.

"At this moment, an MD-80 is probably the safest plane in the world to be on right now," he said.

Bellacy said he has no bitter feelings toward Alaska Airlines, and flew with the airline as recently as October.

Everett resident Michael Crehan and his wife, Sheila, can’t forget crash victim Don Shaw, their friend and a longtime Snohomish educator who hired Sheila into the Snohomish School District 28 years ago. She retired in June.

The couple has followed the crash investigation with interest, including the revelation that a jackscrew may have failed.

Michael Crehan said it’s easier to accept a mechanical failure than pilot error, but either way, Alaska Airlines must take responsibility.

"The families should be compensated by Alaska Airlines because it was their plane. They have a responsibility to maintain good planes that are safe for the public to fly," Crehan said.

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