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Issues Unique to Aviation Disasters


The following article is re-printed with permission from Gail Dunham. Gail is the Executive Director of the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation. NADA/F was founded by air crash survivors and victims’ family members to raise the standard of Aviation Safety, Security and Survivability, and to Support victims’ families.

This article has excellent insight into the feelings, actions and reactions of family members who just lost a loved one. This information would be very beneficial to any Team Member who is assigned to work in a Family Assistance Center.


Issues Unique to Aviation Disasters

National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation - NADA/F Family Support Team

In the immediate aftermath of an aviation crash, the affected families and victims are in a state of shock. Your entire world appears in complete chaos. There are people and agencies coming from everywhere demanding information and giving out information and most of this becomes a blur. You may feel completely numb and cannot comprehend process or respond to all that is going on at this time. This is your body’s natural way of protecting you from sudden trauma. Most of our members on the Family Support Team know and remember this time and these events. We have organized our assistance through NADA/F to be able to respond and be available for others who face this horrific experience.

The following are some of the unique issues facing those impacted by an aviation disaster:

  • Receiving insensitive, untimely and sometimes erroneous information
  • Difficult and sometimes distant disaster site
  • Frustration in dealing with multiple agencies
  • Difficult and delayed forensics
  • Denied a traditional funeral and “stressful” family dynamics
  • Possible loss of multiple family and or friends traveling together
  • The need to know the cause of the disaster, and learning that it was a preventable disaster.
  • Crash becomes a potential platform for political, media, and special interest agendas

  • As time progresses other difficult issues arise:

  • Lengthy, interrupted grieving process
  • Loss of privacy
  • Complex, long-term investigation and legal issues
  • Exhausting efforts to establish a memorial
  • Difficult to connect with other families from the disaster and the need to support each other and work on common issues
  • Need for supportive assistance dealing with personal and family life after returning home
  • Complex demands and confusing days lie ahead.

  • If you are coping with an aviation disaster, please:

    REST: Your body is working hard to sustain the trauma you have just experienced.

    RELY: On family and close friends who can share the workload with you.

    RESIST: Intrusion of others who are not close or helpful or trying to tell you what you should do.

    REALIZE: You will be faced with harsh realities and tasks.

    RESERVE: Your right to privacy, and to make your own decisions.

    REMEMBER: There are people and organizations that genuinely understand this time and are there for you now and in the future.

    REACH OUT: The Family Support Team of the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation was founded by family members with experiences similar to yours.

    Feel free to contact us at 1-888-444-NADA or by writing 2020 Pennsylvania Ave NW #315, Washington DC 20006 or by visiting www.PlaneSafe.org. Email to: Planesafe@gmail.com