Originally created 03/14/97

Three more Flight 1016 damages cases settled



COLUMBIA - The families of three people killed in the Flight 1016 crash settled their cases against USAir on Thursday, but the dollar amounts were not disclosed.

Rita Gray of Santee, Paul Perez of Columbia and Ann Sharkey of Chestertown, Md., were on the DC-9 jet that went down in July 1994, killing 37 people and injuring 20 others.

A federal jury last week found USAir, now called US Airways, negligent and liable for actual damages.

Five other damages cases were settled Wednesday.

The flight, en route from Columbia, crashed in a thunderstorm near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. A federal safety board determined a strong gust called a microburst drove the plane into the ground.

Survivors and victims' families sued, saying USAir's pilots were negligent for trying to land in the storm. The airline blamed air traffic controllers for not giving the crew adequate weather information.

Ms. Sharkey's case was to be presented to a federal jury Monday as an example for lawyers to use in negotiating other cases.

"These families feel that USAir has stepped to the plate and recognized their responsibility," said Michael Baum, attorney for the plaintiffs who settled Thursday. He called the settlements "fair and reasonable and appropriate compensation."

Attorney William Herlong petitioned the court on behalf of several media organizations to release the settlement amounts. The public has a right to know because taxpayer funds are involved, he said.

The federal government, which oversees air traffic controllers, admitted partial liability for the crash and settled with USAir last year with the understanding each side would pay part of the legal bill.

Plaintiffs' lawyers, however, cited privacy concerns.

"There's no reason to take my man and his personal business and take it through the papers again," attorney Bill Simpson said. "My client would feel fundamentally betrayed."

U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson said he would decide after reviewing lawyers' opinions, due to him by March 21.