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ValuJet Verdict Upsets Families

For Gwendolyn Marks, who lost her son in the 1996 ValuJet tragedy, a jury's decision to convict the airline's repair contractor of nine out of 23 criminal charges for the crash was not nearly enough.

"I take it as a dagger in the heart," Mrs. Marks said of Monday's mixed verdict against SabreTech. "I am angry. I'm very angry."

In the first criminal case of its kind in the United States, SabreTech was convicted of recklessly supplying the hazardous oxygen generators blamed for the cargo hold fire that caused the Everglades crash 11 minutes after takeoff, killing all 110 people aboard May 11, 1996.

As CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman reports, a shipping order said those canisters were empty, but, in fact, they were full. And they were missing a simple three-cent safety cap that could have prevented the fire.

Two former SabreTech employees, Daniel Gonzalez, a vice president of maintenance, and mechanic Eugene Florence, were acquitted of conspiracy and falsifying paperwork on tasks performed months before the crash.

SabreTech attorney Ken Quinn said the guilty verdicts, which carry a possible fine of $4.5 million plus restitution to the victims' families, will be appealed.

"The search for a scapegoat in the ValuJet tragedy is just plain wrong," he said. "The ValuJet accident was just that, an accident, not a crime."

SabreTech was convicted of eight counts of causing the transportation of hazardous materials and one count of failing to provide training in handling hazardous materials.

The company was cleared of charges of conspiracy, lying on repair records, causing placement of a destructive device on the plane and other hazardous materials counts.

One juror, Dorothy Alexander, a retired nurse, said the panel acquitted the two employees because "we don't think they did anything intentionally" or with malice.

Federal prosecutors charged SabreTech sacrificed safety, rushed repair work and skipped assignments for the sake of profits.

SabreTech is no longer in business. Its parent, St. Louis-based Sabreliner, sold the subsidiary's assets after SabreTech lost two maintenance base licenses and its business dwindled.

ValuJet, which has changed its name to AirTran, and SabreTech have settled most lawsuits brought by victims' families, but a few are set for trial.

SabreTech also has been charged in state court with murder and manslaughter in the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration had proposed a record fine of $2.25 million against SabreTech, but the company has appealed.