Report: Justice Department opens criminal investigation into Alaska Airlines plane door blowout

The United States Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Boeing after a plane door blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5, according to a report.

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The criminal investigation by the DOJ into the Boeing 737 MAX incident was learned according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal and some people who are familiar with it. It was learned that investigators contacted some of the passengers and crew members who were on the flight. The newspaper reported about the criminal investigation on Saturday.

“In an event like this, it’s normal for the DOJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully cooperating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation,” Alaska Airlines said.

Documents obtained by the newspaper said that authorities had been contacting passengers of the flight and that they were possibly crime victims regarding the case.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary investigation found that the plug was not bolted down when leaving Boeing’s factory, according to The New York Times.

The investigation hopes to see if Boeing had complied with another settlement in a federal investigation. According to the Journal, the settlement was from a federal investigation after two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX in both 2018 and 2019. This led to a $2.5 billion settlement in 2021. The investigation into that case was over the safety of the 737 MAX aircraft, The Associated Press reported.

Boeing declined to comment to the AP. The DOJ also did not respond to a comment request. The Wall Street Journal was the first news outlet to report the criminal investigation, the Times reported.

Boeing told a congressional panel on Friday that it could not locate a possible record about the work on the plane’s panel, the Times reported.

“We likewise have shared with the N.T.S.B. what became our working hypothesis: that the documents required by our processes were not created when the door plug was opened,” the Boeing letter obtained by the Times reads. “If that hypothesis is correct, there would be no documentation to produce.”

Boeing then sent a letter to NTSB with the names of people who were part of the 737 MAX door team on March, 4 the newspaper reported.

At the end of last month, an unidentified source told Bloomberg News that the Justice Department had been probing the incident and could end up launching an investigation.

The DOJ was examining if the incident the Jan. 5 incident on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 violated a 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement that the government reached with Boeing following deadly 737 Max jetliner crashes in 2018 and 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was forced to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon, in January after a door plug came off the plane — a Boeing 737 Max 9 — as it was ascending for a trip to California. The panel that blew off the plane landed in the Portland area, as did two cellphones that has been onboard.

In a preliminary report issued earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts appeared to have been removed from the plane at Boeing’s factory in Washington and never replaced. The agency is investigating the incident, along with the Federal Aviation Administration.

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