Trans World Airlines and the United States have paid $8.3 million in lawsuit settlements and jury awards to the families of about half of the 92 persons killed when a TWA jet crashed and burned in the Blue Ridge Mountains four years ago.
About $7.2 million in 41 out-of-court settlements stemming from the crash were made public yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, after being sealed during the two years of litigation. Jury awards in eight cases were made public at the time of trial.
The other half of the settlements was made without going to court, a Justice Department official said. But a TWA official in Kansas City would not realease the amounts of those settlements as part of the company's policy.
Settlements ranged from $1,000 to the relatives of a five-year-old boy, the son of two Capitol HIll legislative aides, to $950,000 to the nine children in Carmel; Ill., whose parents, Carl E. and Mary E. Zwisler were killed on their way to a business meeting in Washington.
The awards were determined by loss of present and future income to the family by the victim's death and the number of dependents the victim had, a Justice Department official said.
"If you want to put it in the most base terms, it's what is that person's life worth had he lived," the official added.
The settlements were sealed until all cases were disposed of, so that litigants whose cases had not been decided would not be influenced by earlier settlements, the Justice Department official said.
The statute of limitations on the cases expired on Dec. 2, 1976, two years after the crash.
Also released yesterday were the terms under which TWA and the government paid the victim's families. In that agreement, signed two years ago, TWA agreed to pay all of the damages awarded to federal employes and military personnel aboard the flight and 70 percent awarded to other passenger. The government agreed to pay 30 per cent of awards to the passengers.
The United States also agreed to pay for all damages awarded to the families of the three cockpit and four cabin crew members killed in the crash.
Widows of the pilot and co-pilot of flight 514, which left Indianapolis, stopped during a blizzard in Columbus and then crashed near Upperville, Va., before reaching Dulles International Airport, were denied awards on behalf of their husbands by U.S. District Judge Albert Bryan Jr. He ruled last year that the pilot and co-pilot were negligent and the air traffic controllers did their best to prevent the crash.
The family of the other cockpit member settled his case for $70,000. Families of other crew members also settled their cases for about $70,000 each, the Justice Department official said.
Military persons aboard included Army Brig. Gen. Roscoe C. Cartwright, one of the first six blacks to achieve star rank in he U.S. Armed Services, whose case was settled for $140,000. His wife, who was also on board, had her case settled for $100,000.
Judge Bryan, ruling in the cases of the pilot and co-pilot, said the flight crew and traffic controller apparently misunderstood each other during the plane's descent to Dulles. The flight crew also ignored many warnings before the catastrophe. Bryan said.
The agreement between TWA an the U.S. does not establish liability or fault. The cases were either filed in or transferred to the Alexandria court and were handled by a three-member committee of lawyers appointed by Bryan which was awarded 5 per cent of all settlements made after July 1, 1975.
The jetliner, flying through fierce winds and heavy rains, slammed into the western slope of the mountains 23 miles west of Dulles and 4 miles south of Rte. 7 in Loudoun County at about 11:10 a.m.