By ADROEL ALCOBER
ABS-CBN Regional Network Group
On the 8th anniversary of the crash Air Philippines Flight 541, families of victims shied away from publicity.
There were no organized activities in this year's anniversary of the crash last April 19, 2008. Unlike previous years, there was no gathering of families, no memorial services at the crash site in Samal, Davao del Norte.
Dr. Bong Capitan, founding member and immediate past president of the Flight 541 Assistance Group Foundation, Inc., said that most of the families of the victims from Mindanao have agreed to remember their loved ones individually this year.
They have also agreed to keep away from the media for the meantime. Capitan's three cousins were among those killed in the crash.
The reported $165 million settlement of the wrongful death suit filed by the families of the passengers who perished in the tragedy have caused some security concerns to some of the claimants.
Capitan stressed that contrary to what some people think, they have still to receive a single centavo from the said settlement. They are still complying with the documentary requirements necessary to effect the transfer of the funds to the families of the victims.
Worst RP aviation disaster
Air Philippines Flight 541 was preparing to land at the Davao International Airport when it crashed in Purok 7, Sitio Kamanlangan in Barangay Camudmud in the island garden city of Samal last April 19, 2000, killing all 124 passengers and 7 crew members. It is considered as the worst air disaster in Philippine aviation history.
In 2002 before the second year anniversary of the crash, tapping the services of American law firms Nolan law group as lead counsel, Sterns & Walker, Bowles & Verna And O'Reilly & Danko the families of 110 of the victims filed a case against AAR Aircraft & Engine group and Fleet Business Credit Corporation with the Cook County circuit court in Chicago, Illinois in USA. The firms that leased the 20-year old Boeing 737 plane to Air Philippines.
The case dragged on for years, in part due to the attempt of the defendants to bring the case to the Philippines. An effort that failed.
Last month, the defendants opted for what is considered as an unprecedented settlement after the lawyers of the complainants were able to present in court proofs that there may have been an attempt to conceal or destroy evidence to the cause of the crash.
A person supposedly representing Lloyds of London, underwriter of the respondents, was in a photograph taken during the burial of the wreckage, a possible commission of spoliation of evidence.
Capitan said the settlement may bring some form of justice to the victims and their families. But any amount that they get from this settlement cannot compensate for the loss of their loved ones.
Compilation of stories launched
For his part North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol launched a book titled, "Flight of Faith, Wings of Hope" on the 8th anniversary of the crash.
The book is a compilation of the stories of families of the victims. It is divided into eight chapters, representing the eight years of struggle of the families to cope with their loss. The book is expected to be published four months from its launch on April 19, 2008. Piñol lost three relatives in the crash.
Grass covered site
At the crash site, Purok 7 leader Filomeno Quimpan Jr. remembers the horrifying scene on that tragic day.
Now the place looks neglected. Grass have grown in the area and what's left of the mahogany trees that were planted for each victim are all that stands as a reminder.
Quimpan hopes that someday, the families would put up a memorial for those who perished in the crash of Air Philippines Flight 541.