A defunct jet repair company that pleaded poverty
was ordered Monday to pay $11 million in fines and restitution for
hazardous waste violations in the fiery ValuJet crash that killed
110 people in 1996.
SabreTech was the nation's first aviation company to be
convicted of criminal charges growing out of a commercial jet
crash. Its parent, Sabreliner Corp., has been paying its legal
bills and plans to appeal.
"This is a broke company,'' said defense attorney Martin
Raskin. "Quite frankly, we believe this is an uncollectible
Carole Rietz, whose son Howard, a 21-year-old architecture
student, died in the crash, anguished after the hearing over
whether the sentence helped her before saying no and said she
thought the punishment was "very low.''
"We need to send a very strong message that hazardous material
does not belong in passenger planes,'' said Rietz, who traveled
from suburban Nashville, Tenn., to attend the trial and sentencing
and served as a spokesman of the families of victims.
SabreTech, ValuJet's maintenance contractor, was convicted of
failing to train its jet repair crews in the handling of hazardous
waste. Explosive-tipped oxygen generators were blamed in a cargo
fire that caused the crash shortly after takeoff on a Miami-Atlanta
After the crash, ValuJet merged with the Orlando-based carrier
AirTran Airways, and it flies under the name AirTran.
The case revolved around 144 oxygen generators removed by
SabreTech from other ValuJet planes. The canisters are usually
installed over seats to supply oxygen to masks that drop when a
passenger cabin loses pressure.
Five cartons of the generators, which resemble shaving cream
cans, were delivered to the ill-fated flight even though ValuJet
was not allowed to carry hazardous cargo.