American lawyer Manuel von Ribbeck, one of the partners of Ribbeck Law office, which is representing 40 relatives of victims killed in the collision between an executive Legacy jet belonging to New York based ExcelAire and a Boeing 737, told Brazilian reporters, on Thursday, November 9, that he has enough evidence to prove that the American pilots made risky maneuvers over the Amazon forest to show off.
Ribbeck also revealed that his law office has hired experts to probe what has happened during the flight that ended up causing Brazil’s worst accident ever, with 154 deaths. He brought with him a Canadian engineer expert in Boeing accidents, Max Vermij, who is in charge of coordinating the job of other specialists working for the law office.
Ribbeck mentioned that his information on pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladin’s negligent behavior came from a top source in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB): "They were conducting such maneuvers," stated the American lawyer, "because the company ExcelAire was happy with the purchase of the jet and it wanted to show off the equipment to journalists and businessmen who were in the flight."
"Apparently the Legacy’s pilots were making maneuvers, playing over the Amazon in a negligent way and the government has confirmed this," he added.
For Ribbeck there are two main culprits in this Brazilian tragedy: the Legacy’s pilots and Honeywell, the American company that manufactured the TCAS (Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System). The system should have prevented the collision, but apparently malfunctioned.
The equipment should have been able to detect an approaching plane, said Monica Kelly another American from the same law office: "Even if the transponder wasn’t working or had been turned off, the alarm should have sounded. The company should be held responsible for this failure."
On Monday, November 6, the Ribbeck Law office filed a criminal lawsuit in a New York court against Lepore and Paladino as well as Boeing, Honeywell, and ExcelAire Service.
According to Ribbeck, depending on how the investigations proceed, Brazilian companies and people in Brazil will also be sued, including Gol Airlines, Embraer (the Legacy’s manufacturer) and air traffic controllers on duty on September 29, when the accident occurred.
To make theirs a stronger case, the US lawyers say they will use the information contained in the black boxes of both planes and will also try to interview Joe Sharkey, the New York Times reporter, who was in the Legacy when the accident occurred.
Sharkey’s piece on the Times recounting his experience in the fateful flight was quite sympathetic to the American pilot’s cause and critical of Brazil’s authorities and skies management. His piece drew a barrage of criticism from Brazilian authorities and journalists who called him arrogant and misinformed.