Arthur Francis "Frank" Carven III, an attorney who co-founded an advocacy group after his sister and her 9-year-old son were killed in the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800, died of pancreatic cancer Thursday at his Forest Hill home. He was 54.
Mr. Carven, formerly the Harford County government's top lawyer, sat on the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission at his death.
Born in Boston and raised in Dearborn, Mich. and Wilmington, Del., he earned a bachelor of arts in history at the University of Delaware and his law degree in 1978 from the University of Baltimore, where he was a member of the Heuisler Honor Society.
He became an assistant state's attorney for Harford County in 1979. Family members said he won the conviction of a drunken driver who had killed two state troopers on Interstate 95 near Havre de Grace.
Active in political circles, Mr. Carven became an executive assistant to Gov. William Donald Schaefer in 1987, handling public safety issues, and two years later became chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Melvin "Mickey" Steinberg.
He later became an attorney with the Bel Air law firm Brown, Brown, and Brown and for six years beginning in 1998 was the Harford County attorney.
In July 1996, Mr. Carven's younger sister, Paula Ann Carven, a 42-year-old flight attendant from Bel Air, and her 9-year-old son, Joseph A. "Jay" von Hedrich III, were flying to Europe as the boy's birthday present on Flight 800 when it exploded off Long Island shortly after takeoff from New York's Kennedy International Airport.
"I don't think you can imagine what it's like for families up here," Mr. Carven told a Sun reporter at the airport after the disaster.
Mr. Carven spoke during the funeral Mass of his sister's life and of what a bright boy her son was, calling him "a joy to the family," according to a Sun article.
He later became co-founder and director of the Families of TWA Flight 800 Association and an advocate for a law that designated the National Transportation Safety Board as the federal agency coordinating response to affected families in airliner disasters, family members said.
"He was instrumental in getting the airlines to take a passenger's name of the next of kin when boarding a plane," said his brother, Sean P. Carven of Bel Air, adding that his brother discovered through personal experience how airlines and federal agencies were ill-equipped to deal with a major disaster.
"Frank took a deep personal tragedy and worked as hard as he could to help families who were searching for answers and left with little or no information," said a former law partner, Albert J.A. Young of Monkton. "He found the airlines really were not set up to handle the experience and he set out to make things different."
Mr. Carven became an activist for aviation safety and fair compensation to families of victims of aviation disasters.
He was a past member of the federal Department of Transportation Task Force on Family Assistance. He spoke at national forums regarding family issues and aviation safety, and testified before Congress for reform of the Death on the High Seas Act of 1920. He also appeared on the television program Good Morning America.
In 2004, Mr. Carven resigned as county attorney when he was appointed to the Workers' Compensation Commission by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
In his free time, Mr. Carven followed professional ice hockey. Before becoming ill, he played the game weekly at Ice World in Abingdon.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Hickory, where he was a member.
In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 24 years, the former Elizabeth M. Affleck; two other brothers, Thomas J. Carven of Bishopville and P. Jay Carven of Chevy Chase; his mother, Ann Sheehan Carven of Bel Air; and 10 nieces and nephews.