B-193039 December 12, 1978

B-193039: Dec 12, 1978

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Michel: This is in response to your letter requesting our comments on your proposal for the disposition of the personal affects of the victims of the aircraft disaster of March 27. It was our feeling. You now indicate that the Department of State is prepared to dispose of the effects in the same manner as if the property had been turned over to a consular officer for conservation as provided in 22 U.S.C. We have reviewed the proposed letter to the legal representatives and. Sec. 1175 is now impossible. We understand that there are also items which have been or can be identified with certainty. We assume this is what was meant by your statement that the Department will follow the requirements of 22 C.F.R.

B-193039 December 12, 1978

Mr. James H. Michel Deputy Legal Adviser Department of State

Dear Mr. Michel:

This is in response to your letter requesting our comments on your proposal for the disposition of the personal affects of the victims of the aircraft disaster of March 27, 1977, at Tenerife, Canary Islands.

In previous discussions with this Office, representatives of the Department of State had explored the possibility of turning over the effects to Pan American Airlines in response to its offer to appraise the effects, locate heirs, and consider claims by heirs and insurance companies. It was our feeling, however, that this would not be consistent with the duties imposed upon consular officers and the General Accounting Office by 22 U.S.C. Sec. 1175 (1976). You now indicate that the Department of State is prepared to dispose of the effects in the same manner as if the property had been turned over to a consular officer for conservation as provided in 22 U.S.C. Sec. 1175 and pertinent regulations contained in 22 C.F.R. part 72 (1977). In addition, you attached a copy of the Department's proposed letter to legal representatives of each victim's estate concerning distribution procedures, and ask if we see any impediment to implementation of these procedures.

We have reviewed the proposed letter to the legal representatives and, in view of the fact that strict compliance with 22 U.S.C. Sec. 1175 is now impossible, at least with respect to items which cannot be identified with certainty, the letter appears to represent a reasonable approach to resolving the situation. Since more than a year and a half has already passed since the accident, you may wish to consider establishing some reasonable time limit for the response by the legal representatives.

However, we understand that there are also items which have been or can be identified with certainty, and with respect to these items, it would seem that the notice and inventory provisions of the regulations (e.g., 22 C.F.R. Sec. 72.36, should be followed in addition to the procedures mentioned in your proposed letter. We assume this is what was meant by your statement that the Department will follow the requirements of 22 C.F.R. Sec. 72.15 through 72.48. In addition, we would point that, pursuant to 22 U.S.C. Sec. 1175, certain effects which remain undistributed upon completion of your distribution process (investments of bonds, shares of stock, notes of indebtedness, jewelry, heirlooms, or articles having a sentimental value) must be forwarded to the General Accounting Office for final disposition.

Accordingly, on the assumption that the Department is complying or will comply with those portions of the statute and regulations which are still reasonably capable of being satisfied, we would have no objection to the proposed procedures. This reply has been prepared in coordination with the Director, Claims Division, to whom the Comptroller General has delegated the authority conferred upon him by 22 U.S.C. Sec. 1175.

Sincerely yours,

MILTON SOCOLAR General Counsel