Pair Involved In Brazil Crash Make First Public Appearance
Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino are thankful they made it home in
time for the holidays, but remain adamant they were following ATC
instructions when the bizjet they were flying collided with a Gol
Airlines 737 over the Amazon jungle last September.
The two spoke publicly about the incident for the first
time Friday on NBC's "Today" show. They claim they never saw
the 737 and didn't learn of the collision until hours after they
safely landed the damaged Embraer Legacy 600 they were delivering
to the US. The bizjet lost a winglet and suffered damage to
Lepore said after they landed they immediately asked authorities
if another aircraft had issued a distress call.
Brazilian police formally charged the pair before returning
their passports and allowing them to leave the country late last
week. As ANN reported, they are
accused of "endangering air safety." A preliminary report says a
"lack of caution" on the part of Lepore and Paladino contributed to
the crash and suggested the disaster could have been avoided if
they had noticed their aircraft's transponder was off.
The two aircraft collided at 37,000 feet, an altitude normally
reserved by ICAO guidelines for eastbound aircraft. Lepore and
Paladino were flying on a northwesterly heading and wouldn't
normally have been at that altitude, but Paladino said they were
flying at an altitude assigned by ATC, adding, "Air traffic
controllers have responsibility to manage that traffic."
The continuing investigation into the accident suggests after
the collision the Gol 737 experienced a catastrophic failure of the
wing which impacted the bizjet. The airliner crashed in the jungle
killing all 154 aboard.
"We were compliant with all regulations," Paladino said. "We
were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing, and we just
experienced, automatically, just a jolt out of nowhere."
Many international aviation groups have condemned Brazil's
decision to criminalize the crash investigation saying such action
serves to work against efforts to improve aviation safety.
Lepore and Paladino must return to Brazil to answer the criminal
charges. If found guilty of willfully endangering air safety they
face up to 12 years in prison.