Five years after two Boeing 737 Max crashes, families want answers More than five years after two 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people, families of the victims are still pushing the Justice Department to hold Boeing accountable. They're frustrated by the response.

After two Boeing 737 Max crashes, families are still seeking answers from DOJ

After two Boeing 737 Max crashes, families are still seeking answers from DOJ

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Catherine Berthet of France, whose daughter Camille was killed in the 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, speaks Wednesday alongside other family members of victims after meeting with Justice Department officials. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Catherine Berthet of France, whose daughter Camille was killed in the 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, speaks Wednesday alongside other family members of victims after meeting with Justice Department officials.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — More than five years after the crashes of two 737 Max jets killed 346 people, families who lost loved ones are still pushing the U.S. Justice Department to hold Boeing accountable.

Family members and their lawyers met with federal prosecutors for five hours on Wednesday.

They emerged frustrated and disappointed.

"I'm left with the question of what was the point? What did I come here for?," said Zipporah Kuria, who flew in from London for the meeting. Her father Joseph Kuria was on his way to Kenya, where he was born, to do philanthropic work when he was killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019.

Boeing has paid out billions of dollars in settlements from a pair of crashes in 2018 and 2019 that were caused by faulty flight control software. But the company and its leaders have largely avoided criminal prosecution after reaching an agreement with the Justice Department that essentially put the company on probation.

The victims' families are still furious about that deal, which they see as a betrayal.

"You sort of wonder whether they're in bed with Boeing," said Paul Njoroge, who lost his wife and three children in the second crash.

After a long day of meetings at the Justice Department, the family members gathered on the sidewalk outside, holding up pictures of parents, children, husbands and wives who were killed.

Catherine Berthet (left), Zipporah Kuria (center) and Naoise Connolly Ryan (right) hold photos of relatives who were killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Catherine Berthet (left), Zipporah Kuria (center) and Naoise Connolly Ryan (right) hold photos of relatives who were killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The families hoped prosecutors would take their concerns about Boeing more seriously after a door plug panel blew out of a 737 Max jet in midair over Portland, Ore. in January. The Justice Department has opened an investigation of that incident, informing passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 that they are "a possible victim of a crime."

"We did come here quite hopeful thinking, oh my gosh, we're now on the same page, this is dangerous. But it was quickly apparent that, you know, the tenor had not changed," Kuria said. "So it was quite disappointing."

The families have now met several times with lawyers for the Justice Department. But they've gotten very few answers to their questions.

"They say they hear us, but I don't feel heard," said Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband was killed on the Ethiopian flight. "To be met with so many 'I don't knows,' 'I haven't read this report,' 'I'm unaware,' is unacceptable."

"We certainly hope they do the right thing and continue to pursue this case, continue to pursue it through a jury trial so the public can understand what happened when 346 people were killed," said Paul Cassell, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law and a former federal judge who is representing the families of the Max crash victims for free.

The Justice Department could extend the probation deal for another year, or drop the criminal case against Boeing altogether. That decision is likely to come within the next two months, Cassell said.

"We are hoping the Department of Justice will do the right thing now," said Naoise Connolly Ryan of Ireland, who lost her husband Mick in the Ethiopian crash.

"We don't want a third crash," Ryan said. "We don't want anyone waking up to our situation."