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Prosecutor Charges Brazilian as Main Culprit of Brazil’s Worst Air Accident

Part of fallen Gol's Boeing 737 fuselage in Brazil's Amazon forest

Part of fallen Gol's Boeing 737 fuselage in Brazil's Amazon forest Brazilian federal prosecutor Tiago Lemos de Andrade thinks he knows who are responsible for  Brazil's worst air accident ever, on September 29, over the Amazon jungle, when 154 people aboard a Gol airline's Boeing 737 fell to their death after colliding with a Legacy executive jet piloted by two Americans. 

This Friday, May 25, he has asked a federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, where the Boeing fell, to indict six people: four Brazilian flight controllers and the two American pilots. Andrade says that these six men's imprudence and negligence are the reason for the collision between the two planes.

The military justice prosecutor, Giovanni Rattacaso has announced that the whole case will be taken care by the civilian justice. For some time it was believed that the flight controllers, the great majority of which are military men, would be dealt with by the Brazilian Air Force.

Among those being formally charged is Air Force sergeant Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos, a flight controller from Cindacta 1, Brasí­lia's flight control center. Santos and everybody else should be indicted for "willful crime of assault against aircrafts security." In Santos case there are aggravating circumstances though.

He is accused by the prosecution of exposing the flight to danger "knowingly and in a voluntary manner." Santos is regarded as the main culprit for the accident. According to the prosecution, the flight controller handed over the Legacy's flight plan to the other controllers, without telling them the aircraft altitude should be changed, which contributed to the collision.

While the pilots and three controllers, had their crime characterized as culpable negligence, Santos crime was characterized as malicious. "I understood that Jomarcelo's conduct was willful, that it was conscientious and voluntary. He knew very well that he was putting at risk the aircraft," said the prosecutor.

The three other Air Force sergeants who were working at Cindacta 1 at the time of the accident and are also being charged are Lucivaldo Tibúrcio de Alencar, Leandro José Santos de Barros and Felipe Santos dos Reis. American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino complete the list.

The prosecutor says that he is going to ask the judge that the American pilots be heard in Sinop, in Mato Grosso State, according to the bilateral cooperation treaty between Brazil and the US.

The prosecution also says that it concluded that Lepore and Paladino turned off the Legacy's transponder, something that was noticed only after the accident. The American pilots are also accused of not following the flight plan. 

Federal Judge Murilo Mendes, from Sinop in the state of Mato Grosso, should announce next week if he will accept or not the indictment request. It's expected that he will say yes based on the federal police's inquiry.

Before returning to the United States, in December 8, Lepore and Paladino had already been arraigned by the Federal police for "exposing to danger vessel or aircraft," even though authorities concluded at the time that they had not done that intentionally.

At that time the Federal Police investigation was still going on. Police chief Renato Sayão only concluded his effort on May 7. In the 41-page final report, however, Sayão maintains that Lepore and Paladino should be blamed for the planes collision. If convicted of the crime, both pilots might get from four to eight years in jail.

Theodomiro Dias Neto, the criminologist who heads the two pilots' defense team reacted indignantly to the prosecutor's announcement:  "It's nonsense that the press knows about this beforehand," he said.  "Anyway, it seems premature to me to file charges without knowing the result of the technical investigation being done by the Aviation Accidents Investigation and Prevention Center (Cenipa).

"The pilots reiterate the purpose of demonstrating that they acted with professionalism, in conformity with the international rules of aviation, and they believe in the judicial recognition of their innocence."

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  • Show Comments (14)

  • Its simple economics

    Its All about $
    The only reason the Pilots were included in this inditement was so that the civil case against them can move foward in the United Stastes. The pilots turning off the transponder is 8u77 SH18. Its all about the cash at this point. Most middle class people in Brazil struggle to make ends meet because of the bad economy perpetuated by the corrupt government in Brazil. The Brazilian Government steals money, always have, period. Pirez included. Thats why the ATC is so %$#@! up in Brazil because people like Pirez steal all the money so there is nothing to fix the problem. Or if there is money, they certainly won’t use it to fix the ATC system.
    As long as the Brazilian authorities keep the American pilots as suspect, they won’t have to worry too much about the families of the victims coming after them… Its a strategy. So why aren’t these families adding the Air Traffic Controllers and Military to their civil case? Well I think we all know the answer to that. It won’t get them very far and might do more to hurt their prospects than anything. Who can blame them. Its the way it goes in Brazil.
    What really needs to happen is for the International community to come down hard on Brazil’s military ATC. Brazil needs to be hit in the tourism pocketbook before the pressure will come to the Military to fix the problem. I doubt that will happen. People love Brazil and will continue to travel there even with the risks of Brazil ATC. Its a beautiful vibrant place.

  • Simpleton

    money or not
    Doubt the FAB or the Progresso government could be touched by this even if they had the money and could be forced by the exterior (and their posteriors) into the civil court rules.

    Several things you say are correct though. It is a vibrant place. People will go there despite the risks. Some crazyies would even consider giving up all the money to go and stay even if it meant living amongst the pobre.

  • João da Silva

    No Senado, FAB nega falha no sistema e culpa controladores por tragÀƒ©dia
    Worth going through the site:[quote]http://www.estado.com.br/editorias/2007/05/30/cid-1.93.3.20070530.22.1.xml[/quote]

  • João da Silva

    To:Ch.c
    [quote]when everyone in the air army [/quote]

    Air Army? What is that? Ground pounders, fitted with pea cock wings? I dont understand this expression.Of course, I am an ignorant Brazilian. Would appreciate if you could explain what Air Army is.

  • João da Silva

    Ch.c
    As AES,put it ,you are just a bank clerk with an accountants degree.You come out with lots of statistics and no solutions. Shit man, I wouldnt even think of hiring you as my accoutant. You are one of the most unrelaible characters I have come across.

    You have no strategy,no suggestions, no solutions and all you do is to whine on this site with your constant anti Brazilian tirades.For me you are a big loser.You better take off to Congo and try to do some religious work there.Bon Voyage to Congo.

  • Jõao da Silva

    [quote]Even today your pampers wearing Minister of Defense, Pire[/quote]

    Do you have any proof that our MOD,Dr.Pires wears Pampers?

  • Jõao da Silva

    [quote]this guy is histerical. hey, ch.c., are u gay????[/quote]

    Lots of people think so.

  • jc

    wow, this guy is histerical. hey, ch.c., are u gay????

  • ch.c.

    Strange…strange…strange…
    That neither the Brazilian Government nor the Brazilian army are responsible.
    Well known by now that :
    – ATCs were in overworking conditions…due to lack of budget ! Who is responsible of provividing an adequate budget ?
    – one ATC involved in the crash was found incompetent by his own instructor (army). Why are recognized incompetent ATCs put in charge
    of security ? Lack of training ? Lack of budget ?
    – Even today your pampers wearing Minister of Defense, Pires, says there are no blindspots, when everyone in the air army and commercial airlines knows, that your air security is like Swiss Emmenthal Cheese :FULL OF AIR !
    Is his tactic not lying, cheating and hiding…the simple truth ? Of course it is !

    Once more the Brazilian Government shows that they indict somebody else. Better yet, they cut the apple in 2, so that no one if “fully”
    responsible…except themselves !
    Reality being that they did not provide sufficient budget. Reality being that due to lack opf providing the appropriate budget, tens of millions of air passengers annually were/still are at risk !

    Quite ironic that the Brazilian government caress their own navel by insisting that your Air Security System if one of the best and most advanced in the world !
    Could be true if compared to the Fourth World Countries !

  • doggydaddy

    it is not a civil case
    the case will be moved out the the military courts to the civil jusristiction but the charges are within the criminal code, very serious. In Brazil gulity first, have to prove yourself innocent

  • bo

    Shouldn’t the american pilots be suing somebody?

  • Simpleton

    append
    sorry folks – didn’t quite finish the sentence. Please add “are unimportant, irrelevant and non-contributory factors” following “… territory and terrain)”

  • Simpleton

    What’s that? What’s what, that’s what!
    Okay folks – go back, way back and read. Here’s what’s still being mis-represented “The prosecution also says that it concluded that Lepore and Paladino turned off the Legacy’s transponder, something that was noticed only after the accident.”

    There is and will likely never be any proof to draw these imbicilic prosecutors “conclusion” that the Legacy crew turned off their aircraft’s transponder. Good G man – no modern-day pilot that is not insane would do such a thing. The fact that the air traffic control did not notice that the transponder was not reporting the Legacy’s altitude was second or third in the line of negligent offenses committed. And once again notice that the push is being made to make this a “civil” matter, not one of grave criminal or millitarial importance. The Cindacta-1 comm logs will show that the controllers either did or did not at least attempt to direct the Legacy crew to change to a different altitude – under all rules in place everywhere this was their duty. All other issues re: comm problems (known – just try to see your 5×5 and or 2×2 reach contacting the CTA’s test facility vs any other prominent center) and “black holes” in the secondary radar coverage – i.e. ground to air transponder sites (which are not present, not expected to be expanded except around airport facilities and way way too expensive to ever be filled completely given the territory and terrain).

    Basically Miranda, not worthy of reporting, not newsworthy (other than maybe to show the irrelavant clowns in action as there’s no better 3 ring circus in town til pan am games).

  • Rem

    The American Pilots
    If found guilty, what are the chances they will be extradited to Brazil to serve time? Or will they serve time in the U.S.A.?
    Traffic controllers are more responsible for the aircraft(s). Pilots just obey instructions. Sad story.

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