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Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK

World: Americas

Boxing champ sues over plane crash son

Flowers at the entrance to crash site Peggy's Cove

US boxing legend Jake LaMotta has filed the first lawsuit against Swissair after last week's fatal crash.

LaMotta, 76, the former world middleweight boxing champion who was played by Robert De Niro in the Oscar-winning film Raging Bull, is seeking $50m for the death of his son, Joe, 49, who was one of the 229 victims.

[ image: Jake LaMotta with Joe, aged three]
Jake LaMotta with Joe, aged three
His lawsuit names plane-maker McDonnell Douglas and parent firm Boeing.

It blames the crash on wiring defects, and claims emergency equipment and procedures were inadequate.

The MD-11 plane crashed off Nova Scotia en route from New York to Geneva. The cause is still being investigated.

Joseph Fell, LaMotta's personal attorney and a friend of his son, said: "Jake wants not only for himself, but on behalf of the other families."

Wiring problems

Joe LaMotta, of Manhattan, helped run his father's tomato sauce and boxing memorabilia businesses.

He was en route to Switzerland to negotiate plans for selling the LaMotta tomato sauce line in Europe.

LaMotta became undisputed world middleweight champion in 1949 and was the first man to beat the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. His other son, Jack, died of cancer earlier this year aged 51.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Brooklyn, charges that Swissair and Boeing, which owns McDonnell Douglas - the manufacturer of the MD-11 - were aware of three directives issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) between 1996 and 1997.

The directives advised of possible in-flight fires and smoke in MD-11s due to wiring problems.

The FAA required that any damaged wiring be replaced and that anti-chafing sleeving be installed on wire bundles.

Defective wiring

While the mandates do not apply to foreign carriers, Swissair officials have said that they voluntarily complied with the directives.

Mitch Baumeister, an aviation attorney also representing LaMotta, said: "There needs to be focus on the growing problem of defective wiring in all air carrier fleets, especially the MD-11."

Michael Holland, an attorney with the firm of Condon and Forsyth, which represents Swissair in the United States, said there would be an "appropriate response" when the lawsuit was served on Swissair.

Minutes before the crash, the pilot of Flight 111 reported smoke in the cockpit and requested an emergency landing. The plane crashed about 15 minutes later.

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