Friday, June 01, 2007

Brazil: Indictments of Pilots Proceed; U.S. Attorney: "The Pilots Are Innocent"

American pilots
Joe Lepore (l) and
Jan Paladino

From our Sao Paulo bureau chief Richard Pedicini

Mato Grosso court accepts indictment against Legacy pilots and air traffic controllers in Gol accident

01/06 - 18:15 - Newsroom

The single court in Sinop (Mato Grosso) accepted the indictment returned by the Federal Prosecutors' Office (MPF) referring to the tragedy of Gol Flight 1907. On May 26, the two pilots of the Legacy jet and four air traffic controllers were indicted by the MPF. All should respond in Federal Court for exposing an aircraft to danger, a crime foreseen in Article 261 of the Criminal Code.On September 29, 2006, the Gol Airlines plane was making flight 1907, from Manaus (AM) to Brasília (DF). At the same time the Legacy jet was coming from São José dos Campos (SP) toward Manaus, where it would land to, the next day, leave for overseas.At 37,000 feet, in the northern region of Mato Grosso, near the town of Peixoto de Azevedo, the tip of the jet's left wing collided with the Gol Boeing provoking damages which caused the destabilization and crash of the plane. The 154 people aboard the Boeing died..

According to the Federal Court in Mato Grosso, Legacy jet pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino and air traffic controllers Lucivando Tibúrcio de Alencar, Leandro José Santos de Barros and Felipe Santos Reis should be tried by the court for unintentional crimes. The fourth accused, Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos, should be tried for intentional crime. All the air traffic controllers are Air Force sergeants serving at Cindacta 1, in Brasilia.

According to the indictment, Jomarcelo practiced conduct characterized as intentional for being conscious that the Legacy aircraft was at an incompatible flight level for the route that it was undertaking.

Over the indictment against the flight controllers, the prosecutor explained that he understood it to be in the MPF's jurisdiction to offer an indictment because there were no crimes with these characteristics foreseen in the Military Criminal Code.

Response from Joel R. Weiss, attorney for the American pilots in Long Island:

"The Judge’s decision today has nothing to do with guilt or innocence, but relates solely to whether the allegations of the Complaint by the Prosecutor justify this case being heard by the court. In fact, the allegations against the pilots are inaccurate, and the pilots are innocent.

"The pilots' conduct was completely competent throughout the flight and cannot be fairly characterized as criminal. Sadly, a hastily constructed criminal charge was put ahead of an impartial air safety investigation. The fact is that air-traffic control placed and approved these two aircraft on a collision course, on the same airway, and altitude traveling toward each other. That is the overwhelming, obvious root cause of this accident. We will vigorously defend the pilots against these charges, and they will be vindicated."


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