Questions Arise Over Plane Seatbelts Following SFO Crash

Burlingame attorney investigating different safety harnesses used in Asiana Airline's Boeing 777 that crash landed at SFO

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    Burlingame attorney investigating different safety harnesses used in Asiana Airline's Boeing 777 that crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. Terry McSweeney reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 9, 2013)

    Preliminary reports from victims of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 plane crash at SFO raise one very big question for Burlingame attorney Frank Pitre.

    Petri has battled airlines in court a number of times before and won millions of dollars - going back to the 1980s. He says there is one way to get the attention of the airlines.

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    "I think the issue is whether a lawsuit brought is going to change corporate culture," he said.

    "You start to compare injuries suffered in one area (first class) with dual restraints and those who did not have it, and you see if there's a difference in the nature and type of injuries," Pitre said.

    Pitre said he's not certain only first-class passengers had the kind of safety harness we all take for granted in our cars but he has heard reports similar to the one from Eugene Rah, who was sitting first class in the Asiana flight.

    "The impact was so powerful, if I did not have that one more strap going across my chest I probably would've hit the ceiling of the plane," Rah said.

    But bio mechanics experts say the extra restraints in first class are installed because there is more room for passengers to be thrown about. In coach, the seat in front of you prevents that.

    The Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, was asked about the different levels of restraints.

    "We have to look at the specs of the aircraft from Boeing in 2006 and see if any changes were made by Asiana," she said.

    But whether shoulder harnesses would be a true safety addition in airliners is in dispute.

    Dr. Jeffrey Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Franciscos General Hospital, tells USA Today he sees many victims of the crash having injuries from being flung forward and back again over their lap belts.

    "If you put in the shoulder belts, it might just move the injuries up further," Manley said. "Your head weighs a tremendous amount."

    Pitre said before it's over, he may sue the airline, Asiana, the company that built the plane, Boeing, the company that made the flight instruments, and even San Francisco International Airport.

    "As information starts to widen, the field of who the suspects are will start to widen," Pitre said.

     

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