The names of 49 victims from Flight 3407 are now public, but the identity of the 50th remains a mystery and may never be released.
If the people who died in the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 had been in a bus or any kind of motor vehicle, the law would require their names to be released, says Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government.
Pinnacle Airlines Corp., owner of regional flight operator Colgan Air, released a list of only 30 passengers and five airline employees Sunday, three days after the crash in which 49 people on the plane and one on the ground were killed.
A Pinnacle statement said: "Out of respect for the privacy and concern for the families affected by the accident, . . . Colgan Air has contacted each family to request permission to disclose the names of their loved ones. . . . Some passengers will not be publicly identified by the airline in accordance with the wishes of the family."
Besides the 35 names released by Pinnacle, 14 names have been confirmed independently by The Buffalo News through family members. Some of the families, including those of Brad S. Green Sr. of Clarence, initially asked that their relative's name not be released and later changed their minds and contacted the media. Those names have still not been officially released by Pinnacle.
A Pinnacle official and one from Hill & Knowlton, which handles crisis communications for Pinnacle, did not return calls seeking comment.
Freeman said the crash records are maintained by a private entity. Copies of the official manifest "are now in the possession of government, as well," including the medical examiner's office, he noted.
Freeman cited a case that went before the State Court of Appeals in which families of the people who died in the World Trade Center tried to block release of the victims' calls made to 911. Most calls ultimately were released with some parts redacted. And all the names of those killed in the attacks have been disclosed, Freeman noted.
"Why are people resistant to releasing a name?" Freeman said. "What is the downside of disclosure of the name?"