Suit filed in death of worker replacing Boeing 777 air bag

Seattle Times

July 2, 2015
By Seattle Times Business Staff

Jamco America employee Kenneth Ott died a month after a seat-belt air bag exploded in his face last fall.

Boeing and a supplier have been sued by the family of the worker who was fatally injured when a seat-belt air bag he was replacing on a 777 exploded in November.

The accident occurred on a 777 parked on the flight line at Boeing’s Everett factory, when workers for two contractors were called to deal with a seat-belt air bag that had discharged for no apparent reason.


Kenneth Otto suffered massive head injuries when the replacement unit he was installing inflated explosively. He died almost a month later at Harborview Medical Center. 

Also suing Boeing and air-bag manufacturer AmSafe is Christopher Gee, who was assisting Otto and suffered physical and emotional injuries, according to the lawsuit.

Seat-belt air bags are typically installed only in the lap belts of business-class seats that can lie flat and are angled to face an aisle, or in seats facing a bulkhead wall or another hard surface. In a crash, highly pressurized gas inflates the air bag “upward and away from the lap belt, filling the space in front of the passenger,” the suit says.

The suit filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court alleges that the plane’s buyer, Singapore Airlines, discovered a discharged air bag in one of the business-class seats as it was preparing to take delivery of the jet. 

Neither Boeing nor AmSafe conducted an examination to find what caused the malfunction, which later was traced to a short circuit in the wires controlling the device, according to the suit.