Wednesday, July 11, 2007
FAA Stands By Airline Decision
By Kiera Hay
Journal Staff Writer
The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for an agency investigation that determined US Airways did not violate federal alcohol regulations in the case of a Tesuque man who killed five members of a family while driving drunk hours after getting off a US Airways flight.
The FAA's jurisdiction in the investigation is limited to determining whether US Airways complied with the federal regulations for serving alcohol on aircraft, according to an FAA statement issued Tuesday. Federal regulations say airlines cannot allow people who appear intoxicated to board planes or to be served alcohol.
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After a report of the investigation appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday, Gov. Bill Richardson issued a statement criticizing the FAA, saying the agency should have conducted a more thorough investigation.
But the FAA on Tuesday said, "The earlier investigation has been reviewed in light of local interest. There is no change in our original finding."
The agency investigated the incident after Tesuque resident Dana Papst got off a US Airways flight in Albuquerque on Nov. 11, 2006, and drove the wrong way on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe three hours later, killing himself and five members of a Las Vegas, N.M., family headed home from a soccer tournament. Police have said Papst's blood-alcohol content was four times the legal limit for driving.
The FAA's investigation included statements gathered by safety inspectors taken from the crews of the aircraft and gate personnel in Reno, Nev., and Phoenix, the agency's statement said Tuesday.
Inspectors "also collected information from the local Sheriff Department's investigation, including passenger statements."
Asked on Tuesday whether any passengers or airline employees had been directly interviewed by the FAA during its investigation, Roland Herwig, in the communications office of the FAA's Southwest Region in Oklahoma City, told the Journal he was "sticking by the statement."
Papst was a passenger on a US Airways flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque a few hours before the crash, and passengers have said a man they believed to be Papst appeared to be drunk before the flight took off from Phoenix. Passengers also said Papst was served two travel-sized bottles of Jack Daniel's during the flight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.