Brazil Police Give Green Light: American Pilots Can Go Back Home

Even if considered suspect by the Brazilian justice Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, the two American pilots detained in Brazil for two months, will be allowed to go back home in the next few days.

They have been in virtual house arrest since the collision between the Legacy executive jet they were flying and the Boeing 737, which ended up causing Brazil’s worst air accident ever.

Their trip back home might happen as early as next week, after Lepore and Paladino are once again heard by Federal Police chief Renato Sayão, who is in charge of the criminal investigation around the accident that killed 154 people in the Amazon jungle.

By order of Sayão, a federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, the Americans had their passport confiscated and had been in virtual prison in the Marriott Hotel in Copacabana beach, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. 

The federal police chief told reporters today that he is going to hear the testimony of both pilots next week and that after that the pilots will be free to fly home.

He also said that the Americans can go back to the United States even if they are indicted since Brazil and the US have agreements of juridical cooperation. Sayão also commented that it helped the fact that the investigations showed that they haven’t acted with malice or criminal intent.

One hundred pages of transcripts from the Legacy’s black boxes are being translated into Portuguese. They include not only the conversations between the pilots and the control tower, but also what the two pilots talked between themselves. Sayão says that this information will be vital to decide the degree of culpability of the American pilots. 

"The technical investigations demonstrate that the Legacy’s flight was in a straight line, without sudden maneuvers or risky tests, as it was conjectured at the beginning," said Sayão, adding that the US Justice would be notified about the unfolding of the whole process and that the pilots would be questioned in the United States, in the future, when necessary.

Sayão now is turning his attention to the Brazilian controllers. The Federal Police is now convinced that flight controllers made serious mistakes in São José dos Campos, from where the Legacy left, as well as in Brasí­lia, which should have told the executive jet to descend to an altitude of 36,000 feet, but never did it.

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