CERRITOS — The first checks from a special disaster assistance fund have been sent to victims in the neighborhood devastated by the crash of an Aeromexico jetliner.
The City Council agreed to divide $108,227--the amount in the fund as of Sept. 18--among those living in the 17 homes either destroyed or damaged when the DC-9 airliner crashed after colliding with a light plane over Cerritos Aug. 31. Fifteen people in the neighborhood just east of Carmenita Road were killed and another 67 aboard the two planes died.
About $75,759, or 70%, of the fund will go immediately to the occupants of those 17 homes around the crash site on Ashworth Place, Reva Circle and Holmes Avenue.
Many of the families who lived in those homes lost everything and the council felt that they immediately needed money to pay for temporary housing, clothing and other essentials.
Deaths, Injuries Not Factors
The money was allocated based solely on the amount of damage to each residence, said Michele Ogle, city spokeswoman. Death of a family member or injuries suffered in the crash were not factors, she said.
Nine homes were listed as 90% to 100% damaged, and those families will each receive about $6,313, she said. Seven of the houses were on Holmes, one on Ashworth and one on Reva.
One home on Ashworth was listed as 60% damaged and that family will receive $4,209. Seven others on Reva and Holmes had less than 40% damage and those families will receive $2,104 each.
No money was set aside for a house destroyed at 17916 Holmes because all five people living there were killed, Ogle said. Instead, $3,000 from the disaster fund was made available to relatives to offset travel expenses to the funeral.
A seven-member task force, consisting of one member appointed by each of the five council members and two city officials, will distribute the remaining 30% of the disaster fund, about $32,468, based on need. Future donations also will be allocated based on the same disbursement formula, Ogle said.
$10,000 Largest Donation
As of Sept. 18, she said, there had been 1,410 donations to the fund. The largest single donation was $10,000 from the United Church of Religious Science of Los Angeles.
In other crash-related developments:
The City Council agreed to erect new barriers near the crash site to discourage outsiders from driving through the area. Residents continue to complain about sightseers flocking to the crash site, although there is little evidence left of the tragedy. The charred remains of the homes destroyed in the disaster have long since been hauled away. Those lots have now been graded and fenced, yet the curious continue to come.
"We even had a report that one night someone showed up with a metal detector," Ogle said.
Joe Perez, a resident on Ashworth whose home was not damaged, told the council:
"All we want is some peace and quiet. We are still getting hundreds of cars driving down our street. I worry about the children, our sanity. . . . It's incredible. What do these people expect to see?"
Complaints about traffic, noise and souvenir hunters prompted the council to place wooden sawhorses at Ashworth and Carmenita, limiting vehicular traffic into the area. At times a sheriff's deputy is also on duty at the intersection.
Council members adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to hire more air traffic controllers and require owners of private planes to equip their craft with special radar and tracking devices.
Mayor Don Knabe pointed out that federal officials cannot agree on whether the air traffic controller on duty the day of the crash was aware that the light plane was in the same flight corridor as the Aeromexico jet. The controller has testified that the single-engine plane never appeared on his radar screen, but federal officials investigating the crash contend that it probably did.
Knabe said the resolution was drafted and adopted because of the magnitude of the tragedy. It is important, he said, for the council to add "its voice to the growing public outcry" for stronger laws regulating air traffic, particularly light planes. He said that the council and staff will closely monitor and support legislation that attempts to make skies safer.
An Orange County private investigator has helped organize a citizens group that plans to lobby for tougher air safety laws to avert a repeat of the Aeromexico disaster.
Walter Goode, one of the founders and the spokesman for Citizens United for Flight Safety, said the group formed in response to what he charged is "the failure of state and federal officials to adequately regulate Southern California's crowded skies."