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In a news briefing yesterday, NTSB chair Deborah Hersman revealed that the flight crew initially told passengers not to evacuate after the crash. The crew initially told flight attendants to keep passengers in their seats, and evacuation slides were not deployed until a flight attendant observed fire erupting outside the aircraft, resulting in a 90 second delay in evacuation.
Ninety seconds may not seem like a long time, and NTSB Chair Hersman indicated that flight crews do not always evacuate aircraft immediately after a crash. Nevertheless, federal safety rules require that it be possible to evacuate all passengers from an aircraft in 90 seconds. Instructing the flight crew to tell passengers to remain in their seats resulted in a 90 second delay – exactly the amount of time it is supposed to take to fully evacuate the aircraft. Interviews with the flight attendants, in turn, indicate that fires began to break out in the passenger compartment while the evacuation was ongoing – raising the question as to whether the passengers and flight attendants were exposed to unnecessary danger by the delay.
In addition to exposing passengers to physical danger, the decision to delay evacuation and hold the passengers captive in the wreckage may have compounded what was already a life threatening experience and increased the likelihood of passengers suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a life altering illness which in many cases permanently disables victims from many of life’s daily activities including employment and caring for oneself.
Authored by: Aviation Trial Attorney Jamie R. Lebovitz and Attorney Brenda M. Johnson
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