Testimony by Darrell Darling
Father of Adam Noel Darling
Killed April 3, 1996
Testimony at Hearing on HR 3295
Before Sub-Committee on Immigration and Claims
Of the House Judiciary Committee
Representative Lamar Smith, Chairperson
June 8, 2000
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims:
My name is Darrell Darling and my wife, Karen, is here with me today. Our son, Adam, was killed on April 3, 1996.
We families of those persons killed aboard the CT-43A are deeply grateful to you for holding a hearing of HR 3295 the "CT-43A Federal Employee Settlement Act," sponsored by Congressmember Sam Farr whose dedication is extraordinary. Weíre appreciative, Mr. Chairman, of your own recognition of the catastrophic suffering created when a citizen is innocently killed by some action of a government agency. If not for your own vigilant and tenacious advocacy on behalf of the Hernandez family, we know that the unnecessary death of a 18-year-old young man would almost certainly remain a gaping injustice to this day. H is family, with your help received justice. We hope you will likewise act favorably on our request. We have no other recourse. We come to the United States Congress because it is our sole court of appeal, our only arbiter of justice.
Our son, Adam, was also a young man, only 29 when he was killed with 34 others on St. Johnís Hill in Cilipe, Croatia. He and his coworkers are the reason for our being here today. But, of course, a single hearing is an impossibly brief time to give any real sense of the outstanding brilliance, character, and devotion of these thirty-five of our beloved family members.
A story about Adam will perhaps give you a glimpse of who he was.
Adam was one of about a dozen friends who grew up together from nursery school in Davis, California in our close knit neighborhood. Even after we moved to Santa Cruz he frequently returned to the neighborhood. These boys, now men, are a musician, stock- broker, geneticist, professional actor, photo journalist, NFL defensive lineman, attorney, industrial designer among others.
Adamís best friend from Davis was one of the neighborhood dozen. They faithfully watched Mr. Rogers after kindergarten, rode their bikes 1,000 miles to and from Ashland, Oregon Shakespear Festival at age 15, roomed together at the University of California in Davis, and went to Germany together as Karl Duisberg Fellows, Adam in the Bundestag, Kris as a journalist.
The last person Adam saw on this earth was his best friendís brother, stationed at Lukavac near Tuzla, Bosnia, a U.S. serviceman with the peacekeeping mission. Iím reading a portion of a letter we received from Bosnia a few days after Adamís visit, the entire letter is attached for the record.
"I spent several hours with Adam the day he died. He was a good friend and a fine young man, and I share your loss ... I received a call from the Joint Information Bureau ... one of Ron Brownís assistants had been trying to track me down for several days. Ten minutes later, Adam called .... Imagine my surprise! I couldnít believe I was hearing from an old friend, there in the middle of Bosnia...About fifteen minutes later Adam called and said he had arranged a ride to Lukavac, but could only stay for 30 minutes ... Then, a little white truck with German license plates pulled up in the parking lot. I was expecting a four-vehicle convoy ...When he got close enough, I saw it was Adam. We embraced warmly. I told him that I had gotten permission to go with him. ... and invited him for the mini-tour of Lukavac Base Camp .... When we got to my tent, I packed a light blanket and my wet weather top, grabbed my camera ... Then, when I said I was ready to go, he said he wanted to give me something outside before we left.
We went back outside, and sat down on a wooden beam lying under a light . Adam reached into a paper bag, and started handing me little cardboard boxes, paper wrapped packages, glass jars, and little bottles. I once told my mother at some point that good chocolate and real hot sauce are hard to find here. Adam brought me eight different sauces, salsas, and spicy marinades, and five boxes of chocolate truffles and mints. I was amazed and touched at his thoughtfulness. I know he must have had his hands more than full preparing for this trip, yet he took the time to do shopping for things to cheer me up here, without knowing whether he could find me here...."
Adam paid a price for this last act of thoughtfulness; he slept only one hour that night, in order to be thoroughly prepared for the early dayís work. Adam was the epitome of thoughtful kindness, matched by his responsibility.
On April 3 four years ago our son Adam was putting into practice the ideals of a family committed to public service. He was prepared to share willingly in the risk required of U.S. uniformed military personnel seeking peaceful alternatives to the slaughter in the Balkans. But neither he nor we were informed of the risk nor prepared for the loss of his life and 34 other lives resulting directly from the egregious circumstances described in the report of the investigating
committee, the most horrifying fact being that the navigation map, or missed approach chart, showed St. Johnís Hill to be 200 feet lower than it was. They smashed into the mountain blind, at 70 feet below the crest, thinking they had another 130 feet of clearance.
When people who have devoted their lives to public service have suffered, their families have been broken as a direct result of an action of our government, then that government of the people must reach out to heal that brokenness to make the people whole. Of course, we can and do heal ourselves over time by faith in God, by the love and kindness of our families, by the support of communities, by devotion to significant tasks.
But when the loss is suffered under the authority and responsibility of the government, the cohesion and credibility of this representative democracy depends upon the demonstrated desire of the government to recognize and honor that loss, an earnest effective will to restore the people to health and strength not just in words but in financial and material relief. The government has to want to heal those who have been grievously injured by some action of that government, whether intentionally, negligently, or simply by benign misdirected conduct. In no way were the victims responsible for their own untimely, brutal deaths. Still, it is we who have paid the very dearest price which no amount can compensate. Let the suffering we have endured be sufficient lesson for 3,000,000 government employees. But let us not continue to bear this unnecessary loss without relief.
We are deeply appreciative of the 17 gun salute, the memorial service, the Presidentís words of praise, the memorial dedicated to their work and sacrifice in the Commerce building, the flight to and from memorials, as well as the many condolences from their beloved colleagues in the government. We have, however, likewise made every effort to honor our family membersí professional work ethic by spending days and weeks in consultations and meetings, writing correspondence and position papers at the request of governmental agencies to ensure future safety, security, and proper response of the government agencies to similar unforeseen disasters. Some recommendations of the "White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security" and the "Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act" (ADFAA) have been implemented in part resulting from the trauma of the CT-43 crash, providing for substantial relief and care for families similarly suffering in the future. However, many of these provisions are still not provided for victims of government air disasters, government employees on government air craft, and consequently these provisions have never been offered to our families. Among the remedies the government requires commercial airlines to provide which are not available to us are:
International flight to and from the disaster site
Full disclosure of risks of flying aboard government aircraft
Objective third party investigations of mishaps
Access to any court for redress or relief from gross negligence
Guarantees of all aviation safety and navigation protocols and equipment provided through FAA
You can imagine the emotional and financial toll the lack of these remedies has taken on our family.
Immediately after the CT-43A crash, Congress raised the death benefit from $1,000 to $10,000.
Regardless of the public or private status of the victims, we find the $10,000 also to be very puzzling when
$2,000,000 paid to each European family whose family member was killed in Calavese, Italy, resulting from similar lapses of safety and a faulty map;
$4,500,000 paid to the three Chinese embassy personnel killed in Belgrade, Serbia resulting from a faulty map;
Up to $14,000,000 plus paid to each of the families of U.S. citizens who were not government employees who were killed with our son resulting from a faulty map.
We wonder about the value this government places on human life and government service. What message of responsibility is sent by a government that claims such meager and halting financial responsibility for the care of families of 14 public servants whose whole lives were lived as the very definition of responsibility? The technical limitations of the FECA bar established nearly half a century ago to protect both employees and employers, simply is not adequate to address the magnitude of our losses and the extreme circumstances cited in the investigation committeeís report.
Passing HR3295 would truly provide justice for all and we trust that this sub-committee will find the means to redress this rare and unusual calamity and will lead the Congress and the government to a fair and equitable compensation.
The American people will recognize this action for the kindness and justice they expect of themselves and of their government.
Mr. Chairman, we respectfully request that you pass HR 3295. Thank you.