ExcelAire, the Long Island-based company that owns the Legacy jet that collided on September 29 against a Boeing 737 over the Amazon jungle provoking Brazil’s worst plane crash ever with the death of all 154 people aboard, will be sued by at least nine of the victim’s relatives.
The plaintiffs have announced today in Brazil that they have hired a group of American lawyers specialized in aviation accidents and they intend to file an action for damages in an American court. The suit should be filed in New York in the next 30 days. .
The U.S. lawyers, who are already in Brazil and who have joined two Brazilian attorneys, say they believe they have enough evidence to hold American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Palladino responsible for the accident, including the fact that they didn’t follow the flight plan as they were supposed to.
Brazilian lawyer Leonardo Amarante told reporters that he is going to bring an action against Gol Airlines next Monday in order to force the company to pay alimony to Juliana Sarmento, whose husband, André Fontoura, was killed in the accident.
Amarante has also announced that he is requesting that the Brazilian Air Force Command hand over information on the accident investigations. He has threatened to appeal to the Supreme Court if his request is not granted.
Meanwhile, federal police chief Renato Sayão, who is in charge of the crash’s inquiry. said today that he favors the idea that the two pilots remain in Brazil while the investigations proceed. The judicial decision has been to keep the Americans in Brazil indefinitely.
"I’m in favor that they stay until the inquiry is finished because we still don’t know if they are guilty or innocent," said Sayão.
According to the Brazilian Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, however, the presence or nor of the ExcelAire pilots is immaterial for the success of the inquiry. Pires made it also clear that he won’t take any action to challenge the Justice’s determination.
Sayão says that he still needs to answer four questions. First, he wants to know if the pilots followed all the international flight rules and procedures. Second, he needs more information on how the Brazilian air control system was working when the accident occurred.
Another question is to know if there was any mechanical failure that might have impaired the pilots’ action. Finally, Sayão wants to find out if there was a conjunction of negative factors that conspired against the two Americans.
The police chief intends to interview the pilots next week. This Wednesday, he met former Justice Minister, José Carlos Dias, the lawyer who is representing Lepore and Palladino. He also had a meeting with members of the Cenipa (Aviation Accidents Investigation and Prevention Center).
For Sayão, however, the investigations will only go forward after he gets the results from the Gol’s black box and the report on the transponder operation. It’s believed that the transponder in the Legacy was off. If the device were working properly it should have prevented the accident.
Pires, the Defense minister, told reporters he does not believe that the Boeing accident will become a diplomatic headache for the Brazilian government. "I do not foresee any diplomatic problem because we are going to comply with everything that’s contemplated by international treaties and the Brazilian law," stated the minister.
Lepore and Paladin had their passports retained by the Brazilian authorities and some American congressmen have been pressuring the US State Department to negotiate the release of the pilots with the Brazilian government.
Pires has discarded the possibility of any action by the Brazilian government to alter court orders: "We respect the judicial process and any judicial decision will only by changed by another judicial decision."