Friday, December 08, 2006


...are a hoax.

Every day, I get an e-mail or two from someone who has just been forwarded an e-mail with two photos that are described as showing terrified passengers on the Gol 737 as the plane, its rear section blasted open to the sky, plunges to its death.

The e-mail with the photos has been circulating for about six weeks. I've even had them forwarded to me by pilots.

They're not real.

As the brilliant rumor-debunking Web site points out, the images purporting to be the Gol 737 in its final moments are actually screen shots from the pilot episode of the television series "Lost." Indeed, points out, "actress Evangeline Lilly, who portrays the character Kate Austen in that show, is clearly identifiable in the left-hand side of the first photograph."

The breathless text ("INCREDIBLE. AMAZING") accompanying the e-mail that is driving the hoax claims the photos were found on the memory stick of a digital camera recovered from the wreckage of the plane in the Amazon jungle. A fictional owner of the camera and his survivors are even described. He was traced, the text says improbably, through the "serial number of the camera."

Discerning readers picked up several clues that the photos were a hoax. One, the interior shots show that the aircraft is level, as seen by the sky and clouds visible through the blasted-away back section of the fuselage. Yet it's known that the real Gol flipped over and went into a horrifying death spiral at impact at 37,000 feet. Two, even if you don't recognize the actress (I don't; I've never seen "Lost"), the faces don't appear to be Brazilian, and nearly all of the passengers on the Gol flight were Brazilian. Three, the colors and design of the interior of the aircraft shown are not those of the Brazilian airline Gol.

Here's the link to Snopes's debunking, which has the e-mail text and the photos:

The hoax, says, was perpetrated by a Brazilian blogger who has since copped to it, "claiming he was attempting to demonstrate that people only skim the first paragraph or so of articles and don't really absorb or think critically about what they're reading."

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