Coroner rules Exmouth woman, 36, on a doomed Ethopian flight was unlawfully killed – as her dad says the ruling is ‘bittersweet’ after years of fighting for the truth

A Coroner has ruled an Exmouth woman was unlawfully killed when Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 flight ET302 crashed in 2019, with no survivors.

The inquest was this week held into the death of Exmouth woman Joanna Toole, aged 36, who was among 157 passengers and crew killed when flight ET302 crashed on March 10, 2019, six minutes after take-off to Nairobi in Kenya.

Exmouth

Joanna Toole was unlawfully killed, aged 36, when Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 flight ET302 crashed in 2019, with no survivors.
Photo: Adrian Toole.

The Coroner, Penny Schofield, ruled that she was satisfied that Boeing had engaged in criminal conduct that led directly to the deaths of all 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight.

Calls have been made for Boeing to issue a ‘long overdue’ apology to the families of those killed.

The flight ended six minutes after the 737 Max aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, on route to Nairobi in Kenya.

Joanna Toole’s father, Adrian, welcomed the verdict, calling the ruling a ‘bittersweet’ moment after years of fighting for the truth.

He said: “The verdict is the one all the families wanted, but it’s a bittersweet moment after four years of fighting for the truth following the death of our loved ones in such a needless way.

“Having followed events in the US courts, the inquest has confirmed what many of us already knew. This aircraft did not crash as a result of any mechanical failure. Its design was fundamentally flawed.

“Boeing cut corners in order to maximise profit, including failing to train pilots adequately, and it is this that has led directly to the deaths of 157 people on Joanna’s flight and 348 people when you take into account the others killed on the Lion Air flight.”

Adrian Toole added: “Joanna was a star, a selfless, special person, with a big heart and a passion to improve the lives of animals and the environment. Like so many other people on this flight, she was a humanitarian, a United Nations consultant with her whole life ahead of her.

“Joanna’s loss is incalculable, not just to me and the family but all who knew her.

“It must never be forgotten that hundreds of people around the world remain devastated by the loss of this flight.

“I lost a daughter, others lost loved ones, children lost parents who never came home. Boeing now need to take a long, hard look at themselves and acknowledge our loved ones were unlawfully killed.”

Exmouth

Joanna Toole’s father, Adrian, welcomed the verdict, calling the ruling a ‘bittersweet’ moment after years of fighting for the truth.
Photo: with permission.

Several British passengers were among those unlawfully killed when the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 flight ET302 crashed in 2019 killing all on board, the inquest found.

Coroner Penny Schofield ruled Boeing’s actions led directly to the deaths of all 149 passengers and eight crew on board the doomed flight.

She rejected claims made by the Boeing Company it should not be responsible for the criminal conduct of two of its test pilots – who failed to disclose crucial information to the FAA about safety critical procedures, or to train pilots adequately.

She said that the failure by Boeing to answer questions about MCAS procedures may have played a part in causing the deaths of the victims, and damned the ‘incomplete and inaccurate’ information provided to airlines and the flying public by Boeing.

At the Inquest, Boeing sought to distance themselves from their own test pilots’ failings, but the Coroner said that for Boeing to now say that they were not representing their interests ‘was incredulous.’

The Coroner ruled that the requirements for unlawful killing and gross negligence manslaughter were both established on the facts she had heard.

She described the conduct of Boeing, leading to the crash as ‘truly exceptionally bad so as to constitute the crime of manslaughter.’

All 157 passengers and crew were killed when flight ET302 crashed. The flight ended six minutes after the 737 Max aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, enroute to Nairobi in Kenya.

Following their deaths, several of the British families, including Mark Pegram and Adrian Toole instructed specialist aviation lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and support them throughout the inquest process.

Mark, Adrian and the legal team issued the following statements after the inquest concluded.

Vincent Nichol, one of the specialist aviation solicitors at Irwin Mitchell representing the families, said: “This is a truly tragic case which has affected the lives of hundreds of people and proved devastating for Mark, Adrian and all the other families involved.

“Four years on and the families have now got the verdict they were looking for and the hope is now that those responsible will now face the consequences from what happened during those six minutes when the flight ended in such terrible circumstances.

“Many will have been shocked and angered by some of the details that came out during the inquest but at last the process has provided the families with some of the answers they wanted and a conclusion they feel was the only one that could give justice for their loved ones.

“While the conclusion is welcome, there are many spouses, partners, parents and siblings from over 30 nations whose lives have been ruined forever by what happened on that day.

“The crashes involving the Max 8 aircraft were described as ‘the deadliest corporate crime in US history’ by US District Judge Reed O’Connor in his judgment dated 9 February 2023, who went on to say ‘this court has immense sympathy for the victims and loved ones of those who died in the tragic plane crashes resulting from Boeing’s criminal conspiracy.’

“On behalf of our clients, we hope the verdict reinforces the need for essential work which must be undertaken by Boeing in order to rebuild the trust of the travelling public. It is also time that Boeing issued a long overdue and sincere apology to the family and friends of the English victims who were killed on 10 March 2019.

“The fact is that this defective aircraft was flying all over the world and could have crashed at any time anywhere in the world. We all need to know that the fundamental design defects are fully and finally rectified, and that the travelling public is now safe.”

Mark Pegram, the father of 25-year-old Sam Pegram, from Preston said: “The verdict is the end of a long road to seek the truth of what happened on flight ET302 and ultimately justice for all of those who lost their lives as a result.”

He added: “If this inquest can help to make flight safer for other travellers, then some good will have come from these terrible events. It is time now that Boeing did the right thing and acknowledged their part in what took place on a day we’ll never forget.”

  • See here for information about the work of the Joanna Toole Foundation.

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